PHOTO: Stéphane Lefebvre thought he was doing only recce, but now will be competing in Rally Australia from Friday (Citroen pic)
MADS Østberg has withdrawn from Coates Hire Rally Australia after a crash during pre-event reconnaissance left him with two cracked ribs.
The Norwegian was injured on Tuesday afternoon after an accident on the Valla stage which also left his co-driver Jonas Andersson with bruising.
After a medical check-up, the Citroen driver was cleared to continue his recce today but subsequently pulled out.
“We continued the recce but it is impossible for us to contest the rally,” he explained.
“It’s a big disappointment because we thought we’d be competitive and fight to reclaim second place in the world championship.”
His place in the Citroen Total Abu Dhabi squad will be taken by French rising star Stéphane Lefebvre who had travelled to Australia to take part in the recce only.
“I really feel gutted for Mads and Jonas and I hope they will quickly be back on their feet,” said Lefebvre.
“I have never driven the DS 3 WRC on gravel and am expecting a complicated weekend.
“Normally I prepare for a rally several weeks ahead, watching onboard footage from previous editions to get used to the stages. This won’t be possible but all experience is good and I thank Citroën Racing for its confidence.
Lefebvre will be partnered by his co-driver Stéphane Prevot after event stewards granted a request for a driver and co-driver swap. Normally only one element of a WRC entry can be changed.
Citroen team manager Marek Nawarecki said: “All the team is very disappointed for Mads and Jonas. They had the motivation and potential to achieve a very good result here. Without proper preparation we are not expecting that Stephane will be competitive but for him it is a new opportunity to learn. We are asking him to finish the rally to score points in the manufacturers’ championship.”