Andreas Mikkelsen has provisionally won his first World Rally Championship title, claiming the 2021 WRC2 crown as Mads Østberg failed to score enough points on Rally Spain to keep himself in the chase.
Mikkelsen – a former Volkswagen and Hyundai works driver – has spent 2021 in Rally2 machinery, driving a Škoda Fabia Rally2 evo for Toksport.
In his WRC2 program, the Norwegian won the season-opening Monte Carlo Rally before placing second on Arctic Rally Finland.
But a mistake in Croatia restricted him to fifth and kickstarted a bad run of form that included a crash on Rally Italy and a quarantining controversy.
However Mikkelsen responded with an important victory in Estonia and has since altered his approach, changing co-drivers from Ola Fløene to Elliott Edmondson and spending less time watching videos in a bid to memorize stages; instead opting for more sleep each night.
It has paid dividends as Mikkelsen won the Acropolis Rally and chief rival Østberg retired and was forced to restart, only finishing eighth.
That put the pressure on the defending champion, who had to score at least 18 points on Rally Spain to remain in contention for the WRC2 title as competitors can only contest seven rallies in class and carry their best six points scores forward.
Østberg punctured on Friday in Spain and was therefore left chasing his tail, eventually finishing 16th overall and in fourth place of the crews scoring in the WRC2 driver’s championship, meaning his weekend only yielded 12 championship points.
Five points on the powerstage weren’t enough to recover Østberg’s situation and Mikkelsen has therefore won the title, subject to starting next month’s Monza Rally, despite not even competing in Spain.
He was however in the Salou service park where he joined his Toksport team in celebrating their success.
“It’s super weird to sit there not with your driving suit not really do anything and suddenly become champion, but it’s really nice now to come to Monza without any pressure for the points and just go for it: drive as fast as I can,” Mikkelsen said.
“My big aim is to be champion in the proper class so it’s a step towards that direction, but this year our focus and main goal was to try and win WRC2 and ERC and both championships look really well.”
Mikkelsen has the opportunity to cement a title double on next weekend’s Rally Hungary in the ERC too, where he starts needing to score just a handful of points to take the title.
Ironically, Østberg will also make a one-off appearance in Hungary as it coincides with his Hungarian national championship challenge.