ŠKODA UK Motorsport’s Andreas Mikkelsen has become the first driver to win three consecutive rounds of the Intercontinental Rally Challenge (IRC), after taking his factory-prepared Fabia S2000 to victory on the opening round of this year’s series, the Sata Rallye Açores (22-25 February).
Having become the youngest IRC champion last year, Andreas added victory in the Azores to his victories in Cyprus and Scotland last year to make it a magnificent three IRC wins in a row.
Co-driven by Ola Fløene, Andreas led the Sata Rallye Açores, held on the narrow and slippery gravel roads on the picturesque mid-Atlantic island of São Miguel, from start to finish.
In an incredibly close battle with Juho Hänninen (ŠKODA Motorsport), which raged for all 14 special stages, Andreas eventually won the event by 25.1 seconds.
Key to Andreas’ success was his time through SS5, the first run through the rally’s signature Sete Cidades volcano stage, when he took 10.4 seconds off Hänninen. His consistent fast paceand a mistake-free event were other telling factors.
Andreas also won the Colin McRae IRC Flat Out Trophy. The recipient is selected by athree-man judging panel, consisting of Jimmy McRae, Jean-Pierre Nicolas(IRC’s Motorsport Development Manager) and Gilbert Roy (Director of Editorial and Programme Development for Eurosport Events).
The two ŠKODA drivers set the fastest times on all the stages, with Andreas claiming 10 stage wins. Having finished 1st and 2nd in the Azores, ŠKODA also claims maximum points, as it attempts to win the IRC Manufacturers’ title for a third time this year.
Andreas: “It’s a perfect start to the season for ŠKODA UK, I’m so happy for the whole team, and it’s a perfect result for ŠKODA with a one-two – it couldn’t be better. We had a great fight with Juho [Hänninen] right to the bitter end. We pushed hard all the way to the finish, and I’m so happy for myself, Ola and the team, who have done a fantastic job, that we finished on the top. I’m extremely happy about this.”
The next round of the IRC is the asphalt Rally Islas Canarias El Corte Inglés (15-17 March)
Sata Rallye Açores – top 10 results (provisional after SS14)
1. Andreas Mikkelsen/Ola Fløene (ŠKODA Fabia S2000)….2hrs 12mins 43.2secs
2. Juho Hänninen/Mikko Markkula (ŠKODA Fabia S2000).…+25.1secs
3. Bryan Bouffier/Xavier Panseri (Peugeot 207 S2000)….+2mins 03.3secs
4. Sepp Wiegand/Timo Gottschalk (ŠKODA Fabia S2000)….+5mins 20.3secs
5. Hermann Gassner Jnr/Klaus Wicha (ŠKODA Fabia S2000)….+6mins 23.9secs
6. Ricardo Moura/Sancho Eiró (Mitsubishi Lancer)….+8mins 43.5secs
7. Oleksandr Salyuk/Pavel Cherepin (Ford Fiesta S2000)….+10mins 28.1secs
8. Sergio Silva/Fernando Nunes (Subaru Impreza)….+15mins 59.1secs
9. Ruben Rodrigues/Estevao Rodrigues (Mitsubishi Lancer)….+17mins 15.0secs
10. Miguel Barbosa/Justino Reis (Mitsubishi Lancer)….+18mins 01.6secs
IRC points (after Round 1)
1. Andreas Mikkelsen….25pts
2. Juho Hänninen….18pts
3. Bryan Bouffier….15pts
4. Sepp Wiegand….12pts
5. Hermann Gassner Jnr….10pts
6. Ricardo Moura….8pts