What happened the last time the World Rally Championship went through major regulation changes? M-Sport and Sébastien Ogier cleaned up with its 2017 Ford Fiesta WRC.
What about when 1.6-liter engines arrived in 2011? M-Sport’s Mikko Hirvonen won the first rally under these new rules.
It was the same when the latest-specification Focus RS WRC arrived in 2006. Or the Fiesta S2000 arrived. M-Sport has an innate ability to get a car right out of the box. It’s for that reason that Andreas Mikkelsen says Dovenby Hall’s the place to be when 2021 becomes an all-new hybrid 2022.
Mikkelsen talked seriously about joining M-Sport for this year, but a deal couldn’t be concluded. Neither party has ruled out selected outings this season, but the Norwegian’s most interested in joining the Cumbrians for a full-time World Rally Car return in 2022 (when the cars will, of course, be called Rally1).
Mikkelsen told DirtFish: “I think we know there are not likely to be any new manufacturers coming in for 2022. And we also know that M-Sport is always really, really good out of the box. Remember what Ogier did with the Fiesta in 2017 when he and M-Sport won both the championships.
“It seems it’s always like this, with M-Sport always really strong straight away and then maybe the other manufacturers with the bigger budgets are catching up a little bit afterwards.
“For me, M-Sport’s really a good place to be in 2022.”
Mikkelsen added that he would be happy to work on the development of the 2022-specification Puma which DirtFish understands will replace the Fiesta for next season.
“As long as nothing gets in the way of that then I’m available to do some work [for M-Sport],” said Mikkelsen. “I have a lot of experience with developing cars – I was working a lot with Volkswagen, Citroën and Škoda as well as Hyundai, of course. For the Polo, all the way from 2012 I was doing a lot of the development driving with Jari-Matti [Latvala], Séb [Ogier] and Dieter Depping.
“One of the things I have learned from developing cars is that you need the car to work in a window that’s as wide as possible; you need a fairly neutral car and this is what we had with the Polo.
“I think you know for me this year is one I’m hoping to use as a springboard back into the full-time WRC for next season. I have great relations with Škoda and Toksport is fantastic for me, Serkan [Duru Toksport owner] can’t do enough to make everything so straightforward for me, but the ambition is to do what I did with the Fabia back in 2017. I won some rallies and was quite dominant and this helped me back into the WRC later that year.
“I want to be back and, like I said, M-Sport is a very good place to be.”
Hyundai Motorsport team principal Andrea Adamo was fulsome in his praise for his former driver following his dominant WRC2 win in Monte Carlo and the Italian’s likely to be taking a keen interest in the Norwegian for next season as well.