Volkswagen team’s new third man, Andreas Mikkelsen, achieved a spectacular premiere in the Polo R WRC in the hotly contested Fafe Rally Sprint, which was held 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).
“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.”
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.
Fafe Rally Sprint, Portugal – Final Result, Top 5
1. Dani Sordo/Carlos del Barrio (E/E), Citroën
2. Mads Østberg/Jonas Andersson (N/S), Ford
+ 1,0 Sek.
3. Martin Prokop/Michal Ernst (CZ/CZ), Ford
+ 10,4 Sek.
4. Andreas Mikkelsen/Mikko Markkula (N/FIN), Volkswagen
+ 17,0 Sek.
5. Robert Kubica/Macek Baran (PL/PL), Citroën
+ 17,9 Sek.