Mikkelsen’s lofty ambition for Croatia

The driver of Hyundai's third car reckons a podium is achievable, despite unfavorable odds


Hyundai’s third car in the World Rally Championship is back in the hands of Andreas Mikkelsen for Rally Croatia, having already taken the reins at the season-opener, the Monte Carlo Rally.

That last WRC appearance back in January was the 133rd of his career. But all that experience didn’t stop the learning curve for the two-time WRC2 champion being a steep one.

Not used to the aerodynamics of the Hyundai i20 N Rally1, Mikkelsen had to gradually improve his pace on his way to sixth place in the French Alps.


Fast corners are requiring Mikkelsen to recalibrate his mindset in Rally1 machinery

“I can still go faster in the quick sections,” he said to DirtFish at the time. “There’s so many corners where I’m used to going ‘no chances that this is flat’ from a Rally2 car, but here it is. So this is just…you have to change your mindset.”

And change his mindset he has. Monte was about figuring out how the car worked, how to get the most out of it, and rewire his brain for being in a faster car after three seasons spent at the wheel of a Škoda Fabia.

It might only be rally number two of his top-tier comeback. But it’s also rally 134 of his WRC career. Starting seventh on the road makes his task in Croatia a tricky one given the amount of detritus that will be pulled onto the asphalt roads, yet he’s targeting silverware regardless.

“Obviously, our road position at the start of the weekend will be a disadvantage, especially if there is rain, due to the amount of mud that gets pulled up,” said Mikkelsen. “We are ultimately targeting a podium, but if conditions get tricky then a top-five finish is where we want to end up.”


An early off spoilt Mikkelsen's only previous experience of Croatia Rally

Stepping onto the podium, especially with road order dynamics against him, would be a big step forward from Mikkelsen’s Monte.

His own team principal hasn’t set the bar quite so high for Mikkelsen to clear; rather, his expectations are for the team’s two full-time drivers, Thierry Neuville and Ott Tänak, to be the main chasers for silverware.

Cyril Abiteboul, Hyundai’s team principal, said: “We have seen success here in the past; we know both Thierry and Ott can put a car on the podium in Croatia, and with Andreas’ capabilities on Tarmac, we believe he can also score good points next week.”

Mikkelsen has only taken on Rally Croatia once before, in 2021. He broke the suspension and a wheel on his Fabia that year and finished fifth in class, 40 minutes behind winner Mads Østberg.