As he prepares to make his 2017 WRC debut at Rally Sweden [09 - 12 February] Mads Østberg got himself back in the snow zone last weekend with a win at the Norwegian Championship KNA Rally Finnskog.
At the wheel of a Ford Fiesta R5, the Norwegian collected his third back-to-back victory at the winter event and the sixth of his career.
But Østberg didn't have an easy run, and had to contend with a mechanical problem as well as strong challenges from WRC rivals Ole Christian Veiby and Eyvind Brynildsen. His winning margin was just five seconds from Veiby, with Brynildsen three-tenths further back in third.
"We drove all day with a broken front diff which caused time loss in some stages, but still we managed to keep the competitors behind so I'm happy!" Mads explained at Sunday's finish.
"It's valuable practice for Sweden, but soon I hope to be behind the wheel of the Fiesta WRC. To do well in Sweden is the main target. The team is currently at M-Sport, building the car. We're waiting in excitement eager to get behind the wheel of that mean machine!"
Like Østberg, Veiby and Brynildsen were using the rally as a warm-up for Rally Sweden, where they will begin their WRC 2 campaigns.
Veiby said: "There is no doubt that this has given me confidence. Mads is one of the best drivers in the world on snow and ice and to be beaten by just five seconds, that makes me a little proud. It was a fantastic fight with Eyvind today. 0.3 seconds is not many meters on these roads!"
Henning Solberg had been expected to do well in a Mitsubishi Lancer World Rally Car, but he retired on the second stage with a broken transmission, while his son Oscar plunged down the order after a puncture on stage three. WRC 2 regulars Anders Grøndal and Marius Aasen both finished inside the top ten.