It’s probably something to do with living in the same neighborhood as Leonard DiCaprio. Andreas Mikkelsen has become a very good actor.
Talking to him before, during and after Rally Japan, the façade complete.
Nothing. He had nothing in terms of a deal on the table to return to the World Rally Championship’s premier league.
Really? Really. Nothing.
In the days that followed the WRC finale, the voices grew louder. Mikkelsen was talking to Hyundai. To M-Sport.
To us? Nothing.
The likeable Norwegian laughs at his ability to keep a secret. It’s all to do with what happened 12 months ago, when he thought he had it all and, in fact, he had, quite literally, nothing.
“I think it’s a, sort of, defence mode after what happened last year,” the now confirmed Hyundai returnee told DirtFish.
“I was actually not very excited at all until it was finally happening. You cannot take anything for granted until the papers are signed – in this business things happen very quickly and they can change very quickly.
“I didn’t really tell anyone, not even my family. The only person who knew was my girlfriend. I didn’t want it to happen like last year – we actually celebrated that everything was done last year and then it fell apart.
“I was in contact with Hyundai for some weeks before Japan, we talked a little bit but nothing was certain until after the event. I wanted to make sure everything was completely confirmed this time.”
And now he can celebrate. But he also knows nothing is done yet. He’s won two WRC2 titles in the last three years and, undoubtedly, they are part of the reason he’s back with the Korean manufacturer for the first time since 2019.
But sharing a third Hyundai with Esapekka Lappi and Dani Sordo is just another step in getting back to where Mikkelsen feels he belongs.
Could he still be world champion?
“Absolutely, of course,” is the quiet, but firm response. “If I’m in a car I like and I’m doing all of the rounds then I feel like I’m a championship contender.
“OK that’s not a possibility next year, but who knows for the future. I can build stone-by-stone and build my way back into the world championship. If it’s five rounds [in a Rally1 car] for next year, that’s better than five rounds in WRC2.
“It’s one step up and I’m on my way back again.”
There’s something of the chicken and egg to Mikkelsen’s position. Yes, he wants to rebuild his career at the top and to do that, he’s got to potentially look at winning rallies. Will he be allowed to do that? Not if his team-mates Thierry Neuville and Ott Tänak are ahead of him.
At this point I’m going to take every opportunity and I’m going to take the maximum out of themAndreas Mikkelsen
Mikkelsen offers his own take on that scenario. He said: “It’s very easy: my position in the team is that I am there to support Thierry and Ott. If there’s a situation where I have to let these guys past then there is no question, of course I will do it. And if I need to do that then it means I’ve done a great weekend.
“But it also means taking away points from Elfyn [Evans, Hyundai’s main rival for the drivers’ title] then that means we have to push flat out to do that.
“I am super-motivated for next year. But what also really motivates me more with Hyundai is the future. You see the guys in the team in the right places now with Cyril [Abiteboul, team principal] and F-X [Demaison, technical director]. Especially F-X. I know him from before and there’s nobody better to build a rally car. I am convinced this will turn into success with the people in the correct positions – for the future, for my future, this is the correct place to be.”
One slightly beguiling aspect of Hyundai’s announcement was the identification of Mikkelsen as the team’s asphalt expert.
Only one of his three world rally wins came on a sealed surface and Mikkelsen’s most famous victory had to be in Australia, 2016, when he showed then world champion and team-mate Sébastien Ogier the way home in Coffs Harbour.
“I think I’m equally as good on Tarmac, gravel and snow,” he said, “as long as I have a good feeling with the car.”
That feeling was missing last time he was in Alzenau. Especially when the i20 Coupe WRC was in Tarmac trim.
Sensing some awkwardness in posing the question, Mikkelsen takes the lead.
He adds: “When you look back on my Hyundai period last time, it was a disaster on Tarmac. Now, everything is new. As long as the car turns, I’m confident I will be quick. I’m sure it will work out this time around. I haven’t tried the car yet, but from what I heard from the other drivers is it’s very different from last time.
“If I could have chosen my own rallies then 100% I would take rough gravel. One of my strengths as a driver is to balance these kind of events with how much you can push without destroying the car or taking punctures in places like Sardinia, Portugal and especially Greece.
“Of course, I would like to have these rallies as well, but we are three drivers sharing and we have to split them up a little bit and I got the Tarmac.
“You know what? At this point I’m going to take every opportunity and I’m going to take the maximum out of them.”
Like he said, he’s on his way back.
And if this thing doesn’t work out, a career in acting definitely beckons…