World Rally Championship exile Andreas Mikkelsen has told DirtFish it was very comforting to discover he has lost none of his asphalt pace following two difficult years with Hyundai.
Mikkelsen recently completed two test days in Italy – one on gravel and one on asphalt – in a Citroën C3 WRC for Pirelli as it looks to ready its tires for the 2021 WRC.
The three-time WRC event winner was particularly pleased with his performance on the black stuff after struggling on the surface when he drove for Hyundai between 2017-19.
Hyundai signed Mikkelsen in late 2017 off the back of a strong run to second place in Germany for Citroën, but Mikkelsen didn’t gel with the i20 Coupe WRC in the same fashion; particularly on sealed surfaces. His best asphalt finish in blue and red was a sixth place at Rally Germany in both 2018 and 2019.
“[Over] the last couple of years I’ve been struggling on Tarmac with the Hyundai and getting to grips with that car on Tarmac so now in the Citroen where I performed really well in Germany in 2017, I managed to get that same feeling back which I’ve been missing for many, many years so that felt really, really good,” Mikkelsen told DirtFish.
“I was struggling with a bit more understeer now [with the C3] than I did in 2017 but [it was] still easier to drive than the Hyundai was for me with my driving style.
“I think it’s pretty clear that in 2017 I was leading Rally Germany, we finished second in the Citroën and three, four months later I was doing Tarmac again in Spain and I was dead last. That proved very much that maybe the Hyundai is not made for me and my driving style, it just didn’t work out.
“It doesn’t really reflect what kind of driver I was at Hyundai.”
Mikkelsen isn’t expecting his Pirelli testing role to automatically lead him back into the WRC but remains “100% committed” to sealing a return. The Norwegian has previously told DirtFish he has cash to invest in finding a new seat, but he isn’t prepared to “buy a seat out of the blue.”
He added: “It must be something that’s in cooperation with a manufacturer that says ‘OK if you deliver the goods, we have an eventual seat for you in the future.’
“It’s very expensive now to drive these cars, and to spend money out of the blue it’s ridiculous at this level, so there must be an aim. So this I’m willing to do but at the moment it’s difficult. I think all the seats are pretty much busy for next year as well.
“I don’t see that there’s any opening at Toyota with Ogier doing another year, Hyundai is pretty full and I’ve been struggling there before and there’s at the moment [M-Sport] Ford but we know you have to bring cash to drive there, so it’s not so many manufacturers. I really hope now that with the new rules [in 2022] it will attract some new manufacturers to create some more seats available.
“This is not something I am going to give up on. I think team bosses; they know what I’m good for when I come in a car and I feel comfortable, I’ve proven [it] many times.
“In 2016 I was the only one who could challenge Ogier starting earlier on the road so it’s not that I have forgotten how to drive a rally car.”