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GP Week : Issue 149
YOUNG BLOOD Norweigian driver Andreas Mikkelsen is already a five-year veteran of international rallying – despite having to rebuild his career along the way. He spoke to MARTIN HOLMES Norwegian driver Andreas Mikkelsen celebrates his 23rd birthday in June this year, as reigning IRC Champion and leader of this year’s series, having probably achieved more success in his brief career than many in their lives. Things continue to go well in his career, but not always exactly accordingly to plan. The heady days of his teenage career at the wheel of a World Rally Car which started with the famous win on the Quinton Stages in Britain in June 2006, are long past. That first success, just two days after the 17 year-old passed his street driving test in the UK, was followed by outright wins in four other national status British rallies and a win on the Saaremaa Rally in Estonia. In 2007 Andreas contested eight rounds of the world championship, including his native Rally Nor way, which he was allowed to contest with special permission, and for which the organisers cheekily gave him competition number 17! It was the first time he had driven on the roads of his homeland. Experience-building events were tackled also in Ireland and in 2008 he was establishing himself well on the world rally platform. Another seven WRC events were tackled. He finished fifth in Sweden, the youngest ever WRC points scorer, he won a stage in Rally Deutschland, the youngest ever WRC stage winner and earlier in the year back home again he won the Finnskog Rally, the youngest winner of a Nor wegian championship rally. Andreas went on to win the Group N Nor wegian title in 2009. In mid season he drove a Skoda Fabia S2000 on the Czech Bohemia Rally based in Skoda’s home town of Mlada Boleslav, finished third overall, with the help of the tyre supplier Hankook, and then together they also won the specialised asphalt Costa Brava Rally in Spain. With Hankook’s help, entries on selected rounds of the 2010 IRC series were interspersed with rallies using control tyres in the WRC, and victory in Cyprus on the special invitation Golden Stage Rally marked him down as international hot property. It was that result which led to the chance to drive the Skoda UK team's Fabia in the 2011 IRC series, which he won and into 2012 when he won the Azores Rally, the opening IRC round, this third successive IRC rally victory. GPWEEK: Six year ago, when you were 17 years old, you said that you had a five-year plan, a plan which ran to the end of 2011. Have you done everything in that five-year plan that you wanted to do? ANDREAS MIKKELSEN: Of course I feel that my development as a driver is now where we want to be but it didn’t happen the way we expected. After the 2008 season we had a really big set-back. My father had been helping me a lot, sponsoring what I did, but when the world’s financial crisis came he did not have the opportunity to do that any more. So we needed to start from scratch again. I started driving rallies in Nor way with a national spec Group N car, trying to build our way up again. We had always set ourselves the goal to be on the top of the sport in 2011. I have had to learn a lot about life, fast. I had it all and suddenly lost everything. It definitely made me realise that rallying is something that I really wanted to do. I’m now more hungry as a driver and really want to show the world that we have come back in to the sport and can get good results. 37 GPWEEK.com // RALLY >>> FEATURE