Twelve months ago, Andreas Mikkelsen’s career started to unfold. A rookie error cost him the WRC2 title as he clattered his Škoda into the wall in the Olympic Stadium and then Alzenau stopped returning his calls.
The stage one mistake at the Acropolis was as disappointing as it was surprising. Mikkelsen was the class of the WRC2 field last year and, undoubtedly, the back-to-back engine failures he suffered in Portugal and Sardinia were the real reason he didn’t wear the crown at the season’s end.
But still, that superspecial shunt was silly.
Forgiveness was granted a few weeks later when it became clear he’d made a plan to be back in a Rally1 car with his former Korean employer. Then the whole Esapekka Lappi thing happened and Mikkelsen was out in the cold with his career starting to unfold.
Last Sunday was redemption for him and co-driver Torstein Eriksen. The pair of them were on top of the world when they stepped from their Fabia RS Rally2.
And with absolute justification. They were nothing short of outstanding as they leapfrogged their way from 16th to first place on one of the season’s toughest events.
Arguably, last week’s Acropolis was the rally that rebuilt Mikkelsen’s career. Yes, he’s been good this year, but that was Andreas at the peak of his performance behind the wheel.
On Friday, I could never imagine that we would fight for the winAndreas Mikkelsen
I was fortunate enough to be there on Volkswagen’s final-ever Sunday in the WRC – the one where Mikkelsen beat team-mate Sébastien Ogier to a Rally Australia win in Coffs Harbour.
Last Sunday was right up there with that one.
“There are some you never forget,” Mikkelsen told DirtFish, “and Australia was one of them. Also [winning] Cyprus in the IRC in 2011 and now this one is something incredible.
“On Friday, I could never imagine that we would fight for the win. Maybe a podium would be possible if we go completely mental in the stages… but we were catching a lot of time and stage-by-stage we started to realize that there may be a possibility here.
“We kept on pushing every corner and in the end it was enough, so incredible.”
The Acropolis is a tricky one. You can press on, but not take any liberties. This is Greece; rocks lie in wait at the side of the road.
“These roads,” he added, “they don’t accept that you use more than the planned road – let’s say like that.
“There’s things you can hit everywhere. I was trying to push as hard as I can, using all the years I have in the rally car and that experience that I have and try to understand where I really can push hard to the limits. It really worked well.”
Naturally, Mikkelsen wants back in the premium category, but he’s been tempted down that road before.
He pointed out: “All drivers want to be in WRC1, but it’s a really limited amount of seats available. At the moment I am having a great time with Škoda. We go way back in time, so I’m really enjoying my time with them.
“If an opportunity comes, for sure it’s interesting. But I’m also happy where I am.”
One thing is sure, if he’s going to make a call to Mladá Boleslav this time around, it’ll only be done when a contract is signed, sealed and delivered.
And, on the evidence of last weekend and this season, Mikkelsen would be well worthy of a Rally1 return.