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Mads Østberg: I hate to start and think I can’t win it


His first time in Latvia was back in 2012, at Rally Talsi, now essential part of Rally Liepāja. Norwegian Mads Østberg in ready to pack the bags again, and is looking forward his return to Latvia, of which he has warm memories. Østberg is set compete at Round 2 of the 2020 FIA European Rally Championship taking place August 14-16.


Mads Østberg, FIA World Rally Championship ©Red Bull Content Pool


Question: First of all, how are you dealing with Covid-19 situation?

Mads Østberg: “For sure it has been a very difficult situation for everybody. It’s nice to see that finally things are starting to happen again. There has not been a lot of driving so it’s nice to be back in the rally car again.”


This will be your first rally since the break, right?

Yes, that’s correct. My last rally was in Sweden in the middle of February. It’s going to be almost six months without any competition, so that is the ‘personal best’.


Do you think your driving style or preparation for rally will change because of such a long break?

No, my intention isn’t to do anything special, but to get back into normal rhythm as quickly as possible. I think it’s  easy to make things too complicated, when you are a little bit insecure, but I feel quite comfortable to prepare normally for this event, even if I have been out for a long time, I don’t intend to do anything other than what I normally do. My approach is to be back to my normal driving as quickly as possible, but, for sure, not having been in rally car for six months, it will take a little bit of time, to get back up to speed. In terms of driving, it will be interesting to see our pace for me as well.


How did you choose Rally Liepāja as your first rally after the break?

We know that is a very good rally. It’s preferred choice by Citroën to do this event. For me it’s good as well. I know it slightly from the past, it was Rally Talsi some years ago. It will be nice to meet Raimonds Strokšs. I met him in 2012 and he is still the organizer of this event. That will be very nice.


Mads Østberg, Rally Talsi 2012 ©Go4Speed


Talsi and Liepāja have moved a long way since then. 8 years ago, they were two separate rallies, but now they are joined together. What do you remember from that time in Latvia?

I enjoyed it a lot. Of course, rally was very small then. It was in Talsi, which is not a big town. I remember it was very small event. No big hotels or restaurants, it was very compact and gave a nice feeling. Now it’s in a bigger city and probably in a different version than I saw, so I hope I will recognize some of the places and it will nice to see Talsi again. For sure, big part of the race will be new to me.


This rally is famous for high speeds and drivers have to be flat-out for a lot of time. Do you prefer these or small mountain roads?

We have to be prepared for what is ahead of us. Rally Liepāja gives us options, to get used to the speed. It will also be important for me to prepare mentally and get used to the high speeds, because it is not something we can get used to in any rally.


What is your target for Rally Liepāja?

That is difficult to say. I have been out of the car for six months. I know that ERC already started in Rome and drivers are probably a little bit better prepared than me as this is our first outing back in the car. We will probably be more focused to get back into rhythm. Obviously, it can cost us some time, but we want to do well. We want to be competitive and at least we want to be the fastest crew on the second day. That’s our target.


So, a mix between gaining experience and fighting for positions?

Yeah, I hate to start rally and don’t think I can win it. I will always try to do my best to win, but we will have to discuss very closely with our team on how we approach the event and how much we push.


Mads Østberg, FIA World Rally Championship ©Red Bull Content Pool


Many drivers, specially this year, use virtual help to do some racing like simulators and computer games. Is this something you have also looked into?

No, I didn’t. I tried to use my time well with my family and my son. It was probably the first time in my grown-up life, when I have possibility to spend so much time with my family. My 3-year-old son had to stay home from day-care, because of the virus. I had to stay at home with him, because my wife was working. I was a family man and full-time dad for this period and focused on that. It has been nice break from rallying for me. I feel happy to be able to do that and looked at it in the positive way rather than something negative. I’m happy to get out of it with a good feeling having experienced it with my family for so long. Now it’s time to focus on rally again and prepare for that.


Do you plan to do some testing as well before coming to Rally Liepāja?

Yes. We will do one day of testing before the event. Since I drive for Citroën, which is French team, I do not have a car in Norway, so I expect that the testing will take place in Latvia, but I don’t know for sure. It’s organized by Citroën.


Despite the tricky situation, we hope to see some fans from Norway as well. What would you say to those, who are thinking of coming here?

Of course, it is important to follow the advice. If it’s safe to travel, it will be nice opportunity to follow the rally in a close way and it’s not too far away from Norway, so I hope some people can come and support us for this event.


During your visit to Latvia, are you planning to do some sightseeing as well?

It was not the plan. Probably we will arrive a day early and leave on Monday, so I don’t think we will have time for that, but if there is some spare time, we will try to at least see the city of Liepāja and, for sure, I want to see Talsi again.

©Roberts Graudiņš, Rally Liepāja


FIA European Rally Championship round Rally Liepāja is possible thanks to the support provided by the Latvian government, rally city Liepāja, as well as the Talsi region. Thanks to our sponsors Neste, Ramirent, and SC Grupa, our car rental partner Sixt, as well as supporters Canon Business Center – IB Serviss, Liepājas Olimpiskais Centrs, Pafbet, and Swecon. Informative support is provided by DELFI and media partners JCDecaux Latvija, Kurzemes Vārds, Sporta Avīze, Talsu Vēstis, and Zebra. The event would also not be possible without the involvement of all Rally Liepāja friends: Baltic Taxi, Flora, FN Serviss, Fristads, Jānis Pūce, Latvijas Pārtikas Ražotājs, Lofbergs, MB Grupa, Meža Dārzs, Red Bull, SignTech, Sportland, and Törley. Rally Liepāja is taking place with the support of Aizpute, Durbe, Grobiņa and Priekule regions. A special thank you goes out to the Latvian Automobile Federation.


Mads Østberg, FIA World Rally Championship ©Red Bull Content Pool


Mads Østberg, FIA World Rally Championship ©Red Bull Content Pool


Mads Østberg, FIA World Rally Championship ©Red Bull Content Pool