TOYOTA REVEALS LIVERY Mikkelsen: Not out to finish second
Twelve months on from announcing its return to the World Rally Championship, Toyota revealed the livery for its 2016 test Yaris WRC at a Tokyo press conference last week
Volkswagen’s Andreas Mikkelsen believes his good start to the season can spur him on to victory on his ‘home’ round of the World Rally Championship.
The Norwegian led the event into the final stage last year before a mistake cost him victory and dropped him to third place. This time around Mikkelsen is more determined than ever to take his second win, having broken his WRC duck in Spain last October.
Rally Sweden, as usual, will cross the border into Mikkelsen’s native Norway on Friday, where he is determined to make the most of his home advantage.
Mikkelsen said: “I am not travelling to Rally Sweden to finish second. It is my home rally, as part of the route is in my native Norway. Many of my friends and my entire family will be there, and it has always been my dream to win there. I came so damned close last year.
“I had the win in my hands – but ultimately came up just short in the final few metres. We have made a good start to the season, and I will do everything in my power to win in Sweden for the first time.”
Last year’s winner and his team-mate’s nemesis Sebastien Ogier anticipates a big fight with Mikkelsen and Jari-matti Latvala.
“I am expecting a close Rally Sweden,” said the reigning world champion. “I am certainly looking forward to the rally. Last year it was a tough struggle with the Nordic drivers. They are the ones to beat in Sweden.”
Acouple of weeks ago I was on the phone to a high-ranking member of the Irish Tarmac Rally Championship, and I listened very carefully. The net result of our conversation was clear. The R5/S2000 move is a good one for the championship.
You may have read my column when the change was announced last summer, where I was undecided. After all, the fans want to see the most modern and fastest machinery driven by their heroes. It’s old ground I don’t need to cover too closely: Bertie Fisher, Billy Coleman etc. They had the latest and quickest cars.
I stand by my original thoughts. The organisers of the championship were damned if they did, damned if they didn’t. How do you inject competition back into a series by ruling cars out? I think that was a fair and balanced opinion at the time.
However, two things have changed since I wrote that column, the first being the absolute explosion of interest in the British Rally Championship. Its calendar now features two Irish Tarmac rounds, with the two championships sharing the similar rules (both have R5/S2000S as the top class). I don’t think anyone could have predicted the sudden rise of the BRC, which looks like it will attract around 15 R5 entries for its Mid Wales opener next month.
Here’s why it makes a difference, and why my opinion has altered a little: numbers. I wasn’t convinced in June that we’d get a double figure number of R5s in the ITRC, but we’ve had that on the first round. Perhaps the accessibility between Irish, British and European championships has helped that. Drivers can now do those two rounds and potentially compete in one, two or three championships depending on your results in each round. Brilliant.
Back to the numbers: yes, WR Cars are the best to watch and get the spectators out of bed, but would two? If you saw an entry of two WRC cars, as we had at many points last year, would you be up at 0400hrs to travel to the depths of the Irish countryside to follow the rally? I doubt it.
Here’s where the R5 thing works. The cars are nearly as fast as a WR Car in the right hands, and we got 14 of them including S2000s in Galway alone. Fantastic.
The second reason is parity. A S12B Subaru Impreza and a 1.6-litre modern Fiesta are two different beasts suited to different conditions. If you’re a youngster, proving yourself with a car which is deemed to favour a certain rally removes your bragging rights.
However, the R5s are on a very even keel. Yes, some R5s are better than others, but perhaps by 0.2s per mile driven by the best. No disrespect intended here – but at a
relatively grassroots level, that 0.2s probably isn’t going to be accessed.
So gear up for a year of proper-close rallying, if Galway is anything to go by.