Fri 07 Apr 2023

Bring on Paddon time as Østberg aims high ahead of Canarias ERC return

Mads Østberg can’t wait to resume his FIA European Rally Championship rivalry with Hayden Paddon when Rally Islas Canarias hosts round two of the title chase from 4 - 6 May.

New Zealander Paddon edged Østberg to victory on Rally Serras de Fafe, Felgueiras, Boticas, Vieira do Minho e Cabeceiras de Basto last month but only after the Norwegian had led the gravel event for MRF Tyres Dealer Team.

Following confirmation earlier this week that Paddon and his BRC Racing Team had altered their schedule for 2023 to include the Tarmac-only Rally Islas Canarias, Østberg said he more than welcomed the competition.

“It’s great to see that Hayden will be there as well,” said Østberg, who pilots a Citroën C3 Rally2 in the ERC. “As in every rally there will be five or six guys able to win and I’m sure Hayden is one of them. I’m sure it will be a big fight but I’m really happy to return to Canary Islands. Like every rally we are there to win so that’s also the target in the Canaries.”

Østberg, a former WRC2 champion, led on his Rally Islas Canarias debut in 2016 but was unable to take victory following a crash on stage seven.

“It’s a rally I’ve done in the past and it’s also an island I’ve visited a lot for holidays so I do feel a strong connection to the island and I really enjoy the rally,” said the 35-year-old. “It will be great to be back, the stages are really nice, really demanding, technical with some fast parts as well so it will be a big challenge no doubt.”

Østberg and Paddon will get an asphalt-driving warm-up – and another chance to compete against each other – when they contest the Sparco Italian championship-counting #RAlly Regione Piemonte (formerly Rally di Alba) from 13 - 15 April.

“Hopefully our preparation will be good and the feeling will be good with the car and the tyres on Tarmac,” Østberg added.

Østberg’s friends in high Canarias places
Mads Østberg had Instagram to thank for making possible his first Rally Islas Canarias – and his ERC debut – in March 2016.

In an interview conducted ahead of the event seven years ago, the one-time FIA World Rally Championship event winner explained how he was given the chance to get behind the wheel of a Ford Fiesta R5 run by RMC Motorsport on the Gran Canaria-based event.

“Believe it or not, [it was] from a picture that I posted on Instagram!” Østberg said. “I was on holiday in the Canaries at about Easter time [in 2015], and I put a picture on Instagram of my hotel, saying how much I liked the islands. So the hotel manager got in touch with me and introduced me to some other people as well, we got talking, and eventually we were able to do a deal with RMC Motorsport that allowed me to take part in the rally, which is fantastic.”

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