After a quieter start to the season than most – and most have had a very quiet start to the season – it looks like Andreas Mikkelsen will be spending more time in a Rally1 car than just about any other driver in the second half of the year.
The Norwegian is expected to be announced as Pirelli’s test driver when the Italian firm reveals its full programme of preparations for its full-time return as control tire supplier to the World Rally Championship in 2021.
Three-time world rally winner Mikkelsen, without a drive this year after two seasons at Hyundai, told DirtFish: “I have been in contact with Pirelli and I know my name is on the table like some other drivers, but nothing is confirmed 100%.”
Kris Meeke was another name linked to the job, but DirtFish understands there could be reservations about Meeke returning to a C3 WRC after he and Citroen parted company mid-way through the 2018 WRC season.
DirtFish revealed Pirelli would begin testing for its return next month, while sources in France have confirmed the brand will be using a Citroën C3 WRC for all of its development running with Mikkelsen.
The source said: “The C3 is the obvious car for this job. You want to take one of the other three [current WRC] teams, then straight away you are giving them two [advantages]. They are testing more than the other two and they take more knowledge for the tire before next [year]. That’s not good for Pirelli and no good for the championship. This works for everybody.”
Citroën pulled out of the WRC at the end of 2019 after Sébastien Ogier, who won three rallies for the manufacturer that season, departed to Toyota. With its C3 WRC now not running on stages competitively, and with the 2020 cars being not too dissimilar from their immediate predecessors, it is the most representative machine to use for testing.
It’s understood Pirelli’s first running of a 2021-specification tire could come in Sardinia, where Mikkelsen made his debut with Citroën Racing in 2017.
Pirelli declined to comment on the identity of either the car or driver for its test plan.
Earlier this month, Terenzio Testoni, Pirelli’s rally activity manager, told DirtFish: “We’re in touch with the FIA to confirm the final format of testing for 2021 and exactly how we’re going to do it, but we’re on track to resume in the first half of July.
“This gives us the time we need to prepare our WRC1 tires [to be used by Rally1 cars, formerly known as World Rally Cars] for next year and hit the homologation targets. We should be able to reveal some more details soon.”