Mikkelsen picks up where he left off, but in WRC2

Motor Sport News - - Round -

Fi­nally get­ting into the car on Thurs­day night came as blessed re­lief to An­dreas Mikkelsen. At last, he could get away from peo­ple ask­ing the win­ner of the last round of last year’s cham­pi­onship what life was like in econ­omy af­ter fly­ing first class for the last four years.

If ever any­body was ready for an im­me­di­ate up­grade back to the front, it’s Mikkelsen.

The Nor­we­gian was inch-per­fect and tow­er­ingly quick in a car and a class he thought he’d left be­hind in 2012. Join­ing Skoda Mo­tor­sport for what’s planned to be a one-off drive in a Fabia R5, Mikkelsen gave a graphic demon­stra­tion of what the Czech ma­chine’s ca­pa­ble of.

He spanked team-mates Jan Kopecky and Pon­tus Tide­mand and left the best of the rest trail­ing in his snow dust to win by al­most three and a half min­utes from Kopecky.

Ad­mit­tedly, Jan’s pace was slowed by a punc­ture on the open­ing day, al­low­ing for­mer Monte win­ner Bryan Bouffier to start the week­end think­ing up new ways to bridge a 2m47s gap that Mikkelsen had built by Fri­day night.

Bouffier’s hopes were dashed when he suf­fered a punc­ture of his own on Satur­day, al­low­ing Kopecky back to sec­ond. Bouffier found rea­son to cel­e­brate, edg­ing Tide­mand for third by seven sec­onds to avoid a Skoda clean sweep.

Up front, Mikkelsen was typ­i­cally un­der­stated about his suc­cess. “It’s been fun,” he said. “I have to thank Skoda for giv­ing me the car for this event and four days of test­ing to get used to it. Un­for­tu­nately, none of those days in­cluded any time on slicks, so when we bolted them on for the first night, we only had the road sec­tion to get used to them! It’s been good. The car was good and we have [given] Skoda a win.”

Af­ter a sea­son of lit­tle in­ter­est in 2016, R-GT re­turned in Monte Carlo with four cars: Ro­main Du­mas’ Porsche and three Abarth 124s, one of which was driven by for­mer Monte win­ner and liv­ing leg­end Fran­cois Dele­cour.

As usual, Du­mas’ 911 GT3 sounded glo­ri­ous as it bel­lowed its way through the Alps, but the con­di­tions meant it was glo­ri­ously un­suit­able and looked ter­ri­ble sit­ting on skinny win­ter tyres.

Mid-way through the event, Du­mas ad­mit­ted things were not look­ing good.

“We are so slow the spec­ta­tors are cry­ing!” he told MN.

He was forced to give best to Dele­cour through the first full day, but when the sil­ver-haired Frenchman’s 124 let him down on the first stage on Satur­day, the road was clear for his coun­try­man to de­liver a round one win to Stuttgart.

Some con­so­la­tion for Turin came with Gabriele Noberasco’s sec­ond place (out of two fin­ish­ers!).

Du­mas’ 26-minute vic­tory made WRC3 look like a close-run thing, with Raphael Astier ‘only’ win­ning by nine min­utes from Re­nault Clio driver Luca Pan­zani.

Astier ad­mit­ted he’d con­trolled pro­ceed­ings from the out­set in his Peugeot 208, of­fer­ing him the op­por­tu­nity to drive to the con­di­tions on the fi­nal day.

Mikkelsen crushed WRC2 field

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