As the crews made their way towards the final stages of the Circuit of Ireland Rally everything looked just great for Norwegian ace Andreas Mikkelsen in his bid to achieve first win of his career on tarmac. But just like on the Canarias, it wasn’t bound to happen.
This time bitter disappointment came with two stages to go – Mikkelsen made a costly mistake and in what looks like misjudged approach to tight hairpin corner on the first run through the Lisburn superspecial stage. Car ended up going sideways at high speed and the impact with the bales was heavy enough to upset the crew and leave them standing still, with precious seconds ticking. In the end, Mikkelsen lost over 40 seconds to his archrival Juho Hanninen, thus dropping to second place overall.
Interestingly enough, Juho Hanninen complained of stage being very slippery with hay bales being put on some corners, that were not there on the recce. Could this be the factor that added to Mikkelsen’s wrong judgement of hairpin approach? Regardless, Norwegian was back in action on the following 15th special stage, but despite setting fastest time he could only hope for a late error or problem hitting Hanninen as the gap was too big following superspecial crash.
In the end Mikkelsen had to accept defeat once again and will have to wait for another chance of scoring that coveted victory on tarmac. Meanwhile, Hanninen’s job was well done. He accepted Mikkelsen’s gift and approached the final stages with more caution, although final stage saw him set the fastest time, Juho style.
“Of course the feeling is very great but it was a nice battle and big thanks to Andreas for that,” said the factory ŠKODA Motorsport driver.
Third place went to Jan Kopecky, who wasn’t able to match the pace of the leading duo in similar machinery. Czech driver ended the rally with 55.3 seconds gap to second placed Mikkelsen.
In 2WD category victory went to Martin McCormack in Citroën DS3 R3T and his exploits behind the wheel on demanding irish roads earned him prestigious Colin McRae Flat Out trophy. Second in 2WD was Tommy Doyle with Jonathan Greer taking third spot.