2013 Fafe Rally Sprint will surely be one of the highlights in Andreas Mikkelsen’s career, even though he is surely bound for greater things. After being signed by Volkswagen to drive third Polo R WRC, Norwegian had to be patient – first three rounds of the World Rally Championship were out of his reach, he had to wait till Portugal. For a young driver, in a winning team, this wait is nothing more than a little investment, and it could pay nicely!
In Portugal, Mikkelsen will compete alongside Volkswagen’s regulars, Sebastien Ogier and Jari-Matti Latvala. However, he was appointed to be the only Volkswagen driver to compete in Fafe Rally Sprint – Ogier was sidelined by flu, and Latvala, well…
It was Mikkelsen’s first taste of Polo R WRC in an actual rally, and he was able to shake the car down and get more familiar with the machine which will be his office this year – all that in front of the huge number of fans. Speed and confidence were there, in cautious amounts at first, which is to be expected, but if Mikkelsen’s past results are anything to go by, it won’t be long before he starts challenging not only his team mates but the rest of the WRC grid as well.
This is what Volkswagen Motorsport had to say about Mikkelsen’s Fafe outing.
Mikkelsen celebrates premiere in front of 100,000 fans at the “Fafe Sprint”
The Volkswagen team’s new third man, Andreas Mikkelsen, has achieved a spectacular premiere in the Polo R WRC in the hotly contested “Fafe Rally Sprint” at the 6.34-kilometre track in the north of Portugal. Fired on by 100,000 enthusiastic fans, the Norwegian and his Finnish co-driver Mikko Markkula finished in fourth place in a time of 3:56.3 minutes, in spite of getting into a spin in the final heat, behind the winner Dani Sordo (Citroën) of Spain (3:39.3 minutes).
The spectators, some of whom had set up camp days ago in order to secure the best vantage points, were treated to glorious sunshine and some furious rallying action, including one of the most spectacular jumps of the season.
[quote]“It was a unique experience and my hairs are still standing on end,” said Andreas Mikkelsen. “The spectators were incredible – they almost drowned out the noise of the engines. And at the jump, the crowds shout you into the air, just like in ski jumping – simply amazing. Events like this are a real bonus for the rallying scene. I’m very happy with my first time behind the wheel of a Polo R WRC, even though that spin in the final heat cost us third place. Now I’m really looking forward to Rally Portugal! It will be my first proper rally in the Polo, following the brief test drives in the past few months. Rally Portugal is one of the toughest rallies of the season and we really can’t afford to make mistakes in it. We want to make it to the finishing line.”[/quote]
Volkswagen Motorsport II: new team for Mikkelsen/Markkula
Volkswagen has nominated a second team called Volkswagen Motorsport II ahead of Rally Portugal, in order to offer Mikkelsen and Markkula, who are both debuting in the WRC for Volkswagen there, the best possible parameters for a successful FIA World Rally Championship season. This means the Norwegian/Finnish duo are now entitled to ten test days this year that they do not have to share with their team colleagues.
Mikkelsen went down in rallying history during the 2008 Rally Sweden when he finished in fifth place and became the youngest ever driver to pick up WRC points, aged just 17 years and 233 days old. He then made his international breakthrough by winning the Intercontinental Rally Challenge (IRC) in 2011 and 2012. Mikkelsen/Markkula will be travelling on to Faro on Sunday, where the drivers will be tackling 15 special stages over a distance of 386.73 kilometres during Rally Portugal from 11 to 14 April.