Andreas Mikkelsen firmly expects himself to be in the fight for victory on Rally Hungary, despite not rallying competitively since the Monza Rally Show in December 2019.
Three-time World Rally Championship rally winner Mikkelsen is competing in a rally for the first time since being released by Hyundai’s WRC team at the end of last season, and is driving a Škoda Fabia Rally2 evo in the fourth round of the European Rally Championship season.
Mikkelsen faces a tough field of rivals in Hungary, including former Citroën WRC team-mate Craig Breen, fellow Škoda driver Oliver Solberg, 2018 ERC champion Alexey Lukyanuk, and multiple French Tarmac champion Yoann Bonato all in the mix.
Despite less seat time than his rivals, Mikkelsen expects to be a victory contender from the off.
“My aim is very clear: I come here to try and win,” said Mikkelsen when asked by DirtFish what his goals for the rally would be.
“I know the competition will be really tough. It’s a new rally for us which adds to the difficulties of coming here but I feel really good in the Škoda.
“I have a long history with Škoda so already on the test, the car felt really nice, I felt comfortable and I was able to push straight away.
“If I can have this feeling during the rally I’m quite confident that we can fight at the top. If not, I’ll be a bit disappointed in myself.
“But we’ll give it a go and let’s see where we are.”
During the intervening period between rallies, Mikkelsen has been Pirelli’s test driver for its 2021 WRC tire development program, piloting a Citroën C3 WRC, and also tested a Fabia R5 evo ahead of a planned WRC2 entry for Ypres Rally Belgium before the rally was called off.
Despite his Ypres drive failing to go ahead, Mikkelsen expects that seat time to prove especially valuable on a rally known for its low-grip conditions.
“Some weeks ago I tested for Ypres, where you also had a lot of gravel and mud on the road,” said Mikkelsen.
“I think I should be confident riding in these sections; it’s really hard to know the grip levels and how hard you can push.
“When we did the [Rally Hungary] recce a few days ago, we arrived there and it was quite nice weather, so a lot of it has dried up.
“But to predict these surface changes since the recce will be very difficult. Day one will the outcome of the rally.”
Mikklelsen specifically identified stages two, three and four as decisive for the final rally, with some of his rivals also pinpointing the need to ace Saturday morning as the key to victory.
“If there’s a big gap to the front before the last day, Sunday, it’s really tough, because Sunday’s stages are a bit easier,” explained Mikkelsen.
“They’re really fast and it’s hard to make a big difference.
“I do believe Saturday’s stages will be crucial. Staying away from punctures will be very important when you look at last year and how much happened.
“But I would say particularly stages two and three are pretty different because you have a lot of muddy sections. Especially stage three, because it’s quite a long stage as well.
“But stage four is new to everyone, there you can make a gap, you can do something different.”
Rally Hungary beings with a short superspecial on Friday at 1900 CET, with two loops of stages each on Saturday and Sunday.