“Mikkelsen’s Rally Oz ap­proach had a touch of ge­nius”

Motor Sport News - - Round -

An­dreas Mikkelsen is a very hand­some man in­deed. Am I al­lowed to say that in this testos­terone-fuelled pub­li­ca­tion? I don’t care, be­cause it’s fact. But more than that, he’s ridicu­lously tal­ented, clearly ex­tremely bright, and just to rub in how un­wor­thy the rest of us are, he’s an in­stantly like­able and thor­oughly de­cent young man. If some­one is lucky enough to be be­stowed with the looks of Ado­nis, it’s just un­palat­ably un­fair then to bless him fur­ther with brains, tal­ent and per­son­al­ity.

But you have to ad­mit, he wears all these bur­den­some at­tributes ter­ri­bly well. OK, enough of my clearly en­vi­ous man-love ram­blings, let’s just con­cen­trate on An­dreas the rally driver.

For the first time in his ca­reer, he dom­i­nated a round of the WRC and fought off a fi­nal-day chal­lenge from Ogier and Pad­don to, quite rightly, take Volk­swa­gen’s last WRC win here in Aus­tralia. Yes, it will be re­ordered as his third WRC win, but in re­al­ity, this is the first of real sub­stance. When he claimed his first vic­tory in Spain last year, he was bat­tling for sec­ond place all week­end un­til Ogier made a cat­a­strophic er­ror on the fi­nal stage. Like­wise, the win in Poland this year was a safe drive to sec­ond un­til the luck­less Ott Tanak picked up a punc­ture just a few stages from home.

In Aus­tralia we wit­nessed a very dif­fer­ent Mikkelsen. I’ll hold my hands up and ad­mit I was the first to crit­i­cise The Hand­some One’s very odd fix­a­tion with cham­pi­onship po­si­tion this year. When he quite clearly couldn’t win the ti­tle, he fixed his sights firmly on sec­ond place. I didn’t get it. Surely no one is in­ter­ested in be­ing run­ner-up? We only re­mem­ber win­ners right?

Well I still stand by that, but I now be­lieve Mikkelsen’s ap­proach had a touch of ge­nius about it. One thing we have to re­alise is that the boy him­self never doubted his abil­ity to win ral­lies. Learn­ing how to win a cham­pi­onship is, how­ever, a very dif­fer­ent thing.

Colin Mcrae won 25 times in the WRC but was cham­pion only once. You could ar­gue that Colin didn’t know how to win ti­tles – only ral­lies. Richard Burns on the other hand won the cham­pi­onship in 2001 with only one event win along the way.

So maybe there’s a touch of the Burns about Mikkelsen’s ap­proach. He wants to be cham­pion and he knows that to achieve that he has to learn how to con­sis­tently ac­cu­mu­late points. Putting aside that over­rid­ing de­sire to win at all costs is very of­ten the most dif­fi­cult dis­ci­pline for any young cham­pion in wait­ing to mas­ter.

Mikkelsen has dis­ci­pline this year that is as­ton­ish­ing. Con­sid­er­ing the pace he showed in Oz you have to con­clude that he quite pos­si­bly could have won more ral­lies this year. But then he would have binned it a few more times as well.

Great driv­ers and cham­pi­ons never have sub­lime speed in iso­la­tion, they com­bine speed with in­tel­li­gence, pa­tience and dis­ci­pline. Mikkelsen has shown all these at­tributes in abun­dance.

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