ŠKODA driver Andreas Mikkelsen started his project of defending the WRC2 Drivers’ Championship in style. Together with co-driver Torstein Eriksen, the ŠKODA FABIA Rally2 evo driver from Norway won the category at the season opening Rallye Monte-Carlo (20-23 January 2022). Russians Nikolay Gryazin/Konstantin Aleksandrov and Britons Chris Ingram/Ross Whittock, also driving for ŠKODA Motorsport backed team Toksport WRT, finished second and fourth respectively in the inaugural WRC2 Junior competition.
It wasn’t all plain sailing. During the last stage on Saturday, Andreas Mikkelsen had to stop his ŠKODA FABIA Rally2 evo to change a punctured wheel. Mikkelsen and co-driver Torstein Eriksen completed the job in little more than 90 seconds. Amazing in itself, but it would not have been enough to defend the WRC2 lead, which stood at 23 seconds going into this stage. But pursuers Yohan Rossell/Benjamin Boulloud didn’t grab the chance. In the very same stage, the Frenchmen slid off the road on one of the rare icy patches and lost nearly three minutes. “When we stopped for the tyre change, I thought, the fight for victory was over. But that’s rally, anything can happen” Mikkelsen commented.
He didn’t give bad luck a second chance. Mikkelsen/Eriksen completed the four stages of Sunday without any further problems. They not only won the category WRC2 by nearly a minute, they also finished seventh overall. “Perfect job from Torstein. We had only a few miles together in the car before the ’Monte’, but he delivered the notes exactly as I need them,” Mikkelsen praised his new co-driver. “I couldn't have asked for a better start to the season. I’m also happy to give this victory to the team, they really deserved it.”
Already in 2021 Mikkelsen won WRC2 at the legendary season opener at the wheel of a ŠKODA FABIA Rally2 evo run by Germany based team Toksport WRT. He celebrated his first Rallye Monte-Carlo category victory in 2017 as member of the official ŠKODA Motorsport squad.
Mikkelsen’s teammates at Toksport WRT, Nikolay Gryazin and co-driver Konstantin Aleksandrov from Russia, fought back to third overall in WRC2. They lost nearly three minutes after hitting a rock on Thursday (stage 2). „It's good to have a podium and to score the points, because we work towards the championship,“ Gryazin concluded. At the same time, the 24-years-old took second place in the newly created class WRC2 Junior. Britons Chris Ingram/Ross Whittock, the 2019 European Rally Champions, reached the finish fourth in the junior’s category.
Like in the WRC2 overall classification, two ŠKODA FABIA Rally2 evo crews climbed onto the WRC2 Masters podium. Italians Mauro Miele/Luca Beltrame won the new class for drivers aged 50 and over. Former ŠKODA factory driver Freddy Loix and navigator Pieter Tsjoen from Belgium followed in third.
The FIA World Rally Championship next travels to Scandinavia. Rally Sweden (24-27 February 2022) is the second round. To secure top winterly conditions, the tradition-rich event has moved its base from Karlstad to Umea more to the north of the country.