Andreas Mikkelsen is the WRC2 champion once more.
Claiming the title in 2021 after a fight with Mads Østberg but missing out last year, partly because of a superspecial mistake in Greece but mostly because of two mechanical retirements when leading, Mikkelsen has bounced back superbly in 2023.
Not beginning his campaign until round five in Portugal, a full season was never on the cards. But the Norwegian kept performing, kept climbing the championship standings, and eventually managed to secure himself a full enough program to win the title in his Toksport Škoda Fabia RS Rally2.
It’s a special achievement, given he did it without needing to use his dropped score.
“We had a great season,” Mikkelsen told DirtFish.
“It was quite high pressure because in the plan was only four rallies and I knew if I did one mistake on those four rallies we wouldn’t get more so it was really tough.
“And just trying to stay out of trouble and be quick at the same time is not easy. But we managed quite well.”
Mikkelsen’s campaign began with a podium finish (third) in Portugal, before he inherited victory on the final stage of Sardinia when Adrien Fourmaux went off.
Another win in Estonia followed and Mikkelsen’s season gathered real momentum, although a fourth place in Finland was disappointing as the three-time World Rally winner was left to rue a setup misstep.
But his drive on Acropolis Rally Greece was particularly sublime, as he fought back from 16th in class (after three mysterious punctures on the rear-left of his Fabia) to win the event and seize the championship initiative.
“That was special, that was special,” Mikkelsen reflected.
“And it’s a long time since I drove like that where I don’t care about anything, I just drive as fast as I can and it’s nice to see that we still have really good speed.”
Ironically, the event in which Mikkelsen sealed the deal was by far his weakest of the season.
He and Torstein Eriksen did lead Central European Rally, but locked up under braking and went off the road on the fourth stage.
Assistance from spectators allowed them to continue but with a damaged car, and with no mid-day service there was no chance of an Acropolis-style comeback.
Instead Mikkelsen just waited it out for the powerstage where he set the pace, and with rival Gus Greensmith spinning and failing to collect any bonus points he now has the title in his pocket.
“It started good, leading the rally and then on stage four I made a mistake, we crashed and ever since then I was just, let’s say, waiting for the powerstage, making sure the car was there for the powerstage, so at least that was the only type of points I could have,” the 34-year-old explained.
“And when Gus wasn’t doing super well either then we had the chance to make the difference in the powerstage.”
Mikkelsen is an ambitious driver, one who has achieved plenty at a level higher than WRC2. But a second title does mean a great deal to him.
“It’s nice because at the beginning of the season I wasn’t expecting to do the championship,” he said.
“So we got more and more rallies and in the end we managed to also go to Japan, so we knew we had that as a back-up.
“So it was really nice just to do it here because it would be so boring to go to Japan and drive for one point or something, it would be a terrible weekend. Nice to get this one out of the way and we can just focus on Japan and drive fast there.”