Where does Mikkelsen’s WRC career go from here?

Andreas Mikkelsen opens up to DirtFish about his future Rally1 prospects amid another season in WRC2


What must it feel like to be Andreas Mikkelsen right now?

Leading WRC2 – with victories on both the Monte Carlo Rally and Rally Sweden in his pocket – represents the perfect start to his season.

“Yeah exactly, it’s been the perfect start to the season – two wins out of two, couldn’t be better and [there’s] some nice rallies coming up soon,” Mikkelsen agrees.

But for a driver who’s far more accustomed to competing in the top class of the World Rally Championship, setting the pace in the second division is the minimum he will expect from himself. It’s not the reason he’s doing this.

Andreas Mikkelsen

Mikkelsen has of course been here before. Five years ago he was relegated to WRC2 when Volkswagen suddenly pulled the plug on its WRC program in the wake of its emissions scandal.

Then, it only took him a few months to fight back – first seeking refuge with a pair of drives in a Citroën before joining Hyundai and agreeing a two-year deal.

But since Mikkelsen was dropped from Hyundai’s lineup in 2020, he’s been left out in the cold. He can’t do any more than he is doing – winning both the WRC2 and European Rally Championship title last season – but there’s no guarantee he’ll get another chance again given how few seats are available in Rally1 cars.

It would be easy to find it a demoralizing place to be. Defending a support category title isn’t really the norm, but Mikkelsen appears to be pushing against a door that simply won’t budge.


Mikkelsen doesn’t quite see it that way, though. He’s prepared to keep plying his trade in WRC2 until that patience is finally rewarded. In short, he isn’t giving up.

“Of course we want to try and get one more shot in WRC,” he tells DirtFish.

“I think my two years in Hyundai weren’t really showing what I would be capable of delivering when I have a car that is made for my style of driving. It’s not easy to change a driving style like that and I really just dream of a new chance in a car that I like to drive, like now when I’m back in the Škoda I like how to drive it.

“We’re winning rallies and at the moment we are the ones to beat in WRC2, so I really hope that we get another chance in WRC. The only thing I can do at the moment is just try and do as well as I can in WRC2, so that if there is a possibility opening in WRC that we are first in line.


“That’s the only thing I can do at the moment, and then if an opportunity comes – perfect. If not, I’m still going to try for the next couple of years to get back, I’m not giving up after this season.

“It’s just a matter of time before an opportunity comes. One driver tests positive for COVID, he has to skip the rally and then suddenly you have the seat. These things can happen.”

It’s intriguing to learn that Mikkelsen hasn’t set himself a cap on how many seasons of WRC2 he can do before he simply has to accept defeat. He believes that if he just keeps winning rallies and championships, he’ll be the clear candidate for promotion should an opportunity present himself.

“I think it’s the plan of the FIA to try and find out the new set of regulations as soon as possible to attract new manufacturers, so I think as soon as they will realize or know which direction they will go hopefully that will attract some new manufacturers,” Mikkelsen says.

“If some new manufacturers come then maybe you’re back in full work again. I think with the experience that I have, I think a team knows they will get a driver that’s both fast and very reliable who will bring points from every rally and be, let’s say, quite a safe choice.

“I think that’s our strength and I think we have a lot to offer manufacturers coming in. I also tell myself that I have been in so many different cars. I have been in almost every single WRC car except for the Toyota and the Puma, so I know what the strength of each car is and the weaknesses of each car. To get an opportunity to develop a car with the experience that we have, I think we can do a really, really nice job.

“You could search in other directions but I still feel I have so much to give in rallying. I will give it some more years and I just need to make sure I’m delivering my best in WRC2, being first in line if something, an opportunity, arises. And who knows, suddenly you’re back.”


It certainly can’t be disputed that Mikkelsen is the one to beat in Rally2 at the moment. He hasn’t just won both rounds of WRC2 this year but sits a fine ninth overall in the WRC standings too with two seventh place finishes against the Rally1 cars.

A change in approach has made a difference. After a hectic 2021 chasing two titles, Mikkelsen has realigned his focus in 2022.

“Last year was so incredibly busy doing two championships and a lot of the weekends were directly into each other. Normally I really like to prepare rallies quite deeply and do a lot of video work, and last year I didn’t have so much time to do it because I was traveling directly from one rally to another,” Mikkelsen explains.


“In one way it was nice because I did a lot of driving but I think at this part of my career I’ve been driving so many rally cars over the last 10 years that I’m not lacking seat time, so it’s more about doing the preparations 100%. This is where I can gain some time, not by actually sitting inside the car more [often].

“We decided with the team that I will only focus on WRC2 for this year, prepare the events even better and have a little bit more free time in between the rallies to recharge batteries and make sure you’re 100% going into every rally.

“I feel I’m a bit more relaxed in a way. I feel better prepared for the rallies. What is really important this year is that in WRC2 there aren’t a lot of rallies, so you can’t really [afford to] have any DNFs or retirements because it will really hurt your championship.

“I really tried to have a clever approach to both Monte Carlo and Sweden, try to win the rallies of course but try to win them with the least amount of risk as possible. We managed that very well on the first two rallies.


“Coming to Portugal, it’s a rally that I really like; it suits our car really well because it’s high grip and quite rough, so the Škoda should be really good. And we have the new Škoda coming later this year, so everything is looking really positive.”

It’s not just Mikkelsen’s choice of program that’s been modified this year; his approach to each rally has too. Last season he made the now-famous statement of wanting to dominate each event he started – something he now concedes, in hindsight, was a mistake.

“It’s really important for Škoda to win the championship, to show that the car is a championship-winning car. You have your own agenda as a driver and then you have the team’s agenda and then you have the manufacturer’s agenda, and you have to take care as a driver of all of them and that’s not always easy.

Andreas Mikkelsen
I have an opening in my contract that says I'm available for any WRC driving if that comes up Andreas Mikkelsen on Rally1 opportunities

“It was a bold statement in front of the season last year that I wanted to dominate every stage, every rally. I think starting that season I realized quite quickly that the level of WRC2 was quite different compared to when I last drove there in 2017.

“There are a lot of drivers now on a really high level doing great. I was too keen compared to knowing exactly what the level really was. So dominating was not easy.

“And then at the same time there were some drivers which were not expected to join the championship at the beginning of the season who I know are on an amazing level, like Lappi and these drivers. So then it’s more difficult than what you expected.

“Being realistic, to win every stage on every rally, I’m sure you can win it [the championship]. But it would come with some mistakes here and there which can lead to a retirement, and this I cannot afford. The championship is definitely number one criteria that we have to achieve, and then it’s rally wins and then it’s stage wins at the end.”


It might be different if Mikkelsen was a rising talent shooting for the WRC for the first time, but the rallying world is more than aware of his raw pace. His three WRC wins do the talking in that respect. But Mikkelsen still needs to do some actual talking to make the current teams aware of his current position – although not constantly.

“I’ve been in contact with all of them and they know my situation so it doesn’t make any difference for me to try and call them down every week,” Mikkelsen says.

“They know my situation, they know I’m in WRC2, I have an opening in my contract that says I’m available for any WRC driving if that comes up and I want to thank Škoda for making that possible, that was quite important for me.

“They know that if they want a reliable, fast driver, which is quite a safe choice, they have it, and let’s see if some drivers are struggling or they need to change out; they know I’m available. So that’s the situation.”


Despite conversations, Mikkelsen is yet to test any Rally1 car and there’s an argument to suggest that the longer that remains the case, the less effective his skillset will be.

With hybrid technology introduced into the WRC this year for the first time, Mikkelsen’s years of experience may perhaps be less relevant than they once were as he hasn’t ever driven a hybrid-boosted rally car before.

Nonsense, if you ask him.

“To be honest, I don’t think the hybrid unit makes a big change in driving. After speaking to the drivers after the first rounds, I asked them what has changed compared to driving the [World Rally] cars and they were like, actually not a lot. I mean, you see drivers winning stages when their hybrid unit is not actually working.

“For me, I don’t think it will make a massive difference. Maybe in some areas, it depends on the hybrid strategy, what the different manufacturers are using, but I don’t believe that that will make a big change or make me not competitive when an opportunity arises.”

And those M-Sport Ford rumors that surfaced throughout last year – was Mikkelsen ever close to securing a deal to pilot a Puma Rally1 in 2022?

“No,” is the short answer. “I was definitely in contact with M-Sport like I was with both other teams. But no, nothing really ever came… well, we were in talks but nothing more than that so far.

“I could join but then of course you need to bring a bag of money and that’s out of the question. At this time in my career now, to then start to pay to drive is not the way to go forward.

Andreas Mikkelsen

“Luckily I have a great drive with Škoda and Toksport which keeps me on the second-highest level in rallying, keeps me fit and keeps me ready for a WRC drive, so luckily I have that in my pocket. That really helps.”

Mikkelsen won’t be in Croatia next week, instead opting to focus on European gravel events Portugal and Italy before reviewing the season plan after those rallies. But such is his command of the series, he will still be leading the championship regardless of what happens in Croatia.

It’s not the ultimate place to be, but it’s the best Mikkelsen can achieve with the factors that are in his control. Currently the tunnel is quite dark, but he’s ensuring everyone else remains in his slipstream for when the light does appear at the end of it.

If history ultimately proves that Mikkelsen remains rooted in Rally2 forever, it certainly won’t have been for a lack of effort, skill or desire.

Words:Luke Barry

Photography:Škoda, Red Bull, FIA ERC, McKlein, Hyundai