Why a dry Monte is bad news for Mikkelsen

Andreas Mikkelsen had an ace up his sleeve for Monte – but may not get to use it


For Andreas Mikkelsen, the wait is finally over.

On Wednesday’s shakedown for the Monte Carlo Rally, the Norwegian got his first taste of Rally1 machinery in anger, and his first run in a top-flight World Rally Championship car on an official event since 2019.

After describing that experience as “f****** fast” at the end of his first blast through the shakedown stage, the double WRC2 champion elaborated on how different his Hyundai i20 N feels to anything he has driven before.


Turn one of Monte's Wednesday shakedown: the moment Mikkelsen realized just how "f****** fast" the i20 N Rally1 really is

“These cars are so fast, I remember driving the 2018-19 car but this is one step more,” he told DirtFish. “It’s just very different to what I’m used to [in] the last five years. I feel I’m braking late but then I have to go on the throttle again and then brake a second time because the limits are in a different place to what I’m used to.

“So this I guess will be my challenge this weekend, to try to understand the limits quickly because it’s limited testing these days. But it’s fun, good fun to drive, really quick.”

With the reece complete, and this week’s weather forecast in, the smart money appears to be on this year’s Monte being a dry one, save for a few patches of black ice and frost on the early morning stages.

A. Mikkelsen_3
I was hoping for terrible conditions, to be honest. Tricky with ice and slush. Andreas Mikkelsen

Having completed his pre-event test in similar conditions, and with so much still to learn about his new car, conventional wisdom would suggest that a dry rally would suit the three-time WRC winner down to the ground.

But Mikkelsen doesn’t want straightforward conditions, he wants chaos. Why?

The Hyundai driver said: “I was hoping for terrible conditions, to be honest. Tricky with ice and slush. Then you don’t need to know your car so well because it’s more about understanding how the tires work in these conditions, and there we have a lot of experience.”

And there lies Mikkelsen’s secret weapon: he developed the current generation of WRC tires for Pirelli.


During an intensive 2020 development program, Mikkelsen tested the full range of Pirelli WRC tires over hundreds of miles

Having lost his Hyundai seat after the 2019 season, the Norwegian kept himself sharp by hopping in the tire constructor’s Citroën C3 WRC test car during the 2020 campaign, ahead of Pirelli’s return to the series the following year.

In each Monte since, there hasn’t been the need to use winter tires, meaning Mikkelsen still has vastly more experience on the Sottozero STZ-B, which has optional low-profile studs and is only made available in the WRC for the season opener.

With Pirelli making its exit from the WRC after this season, this year’s event marks the only chance Mikkelsen has to press home that advantage. And heading into the rally’s opening stages on Thursday night, that chance is looking quite slim.


Despite his Monte wishes appearing not to have been granted, Mikkelsen still has ambitions to challenge his rivals from Toyota and M-Sport on his Rally1 debut.

“The feeling is really good [in the car],” Mikkelsen said. “On the test, you know your reference points for braking, but now it’s all about pushing and getting it right on the first pass. This will take a little bit of time but I know in myself, I will sleep a bit on it tonight, wake up [on Thursday] and suddenly, maybe it’s already there.

He added: “I would be happy with a top five. To fight with Sébastien [Ogier], Elfyn [Evans], Ott [Tänak] and Thierry [Neuville], without them having any issues, that’s unrealistic. Also, [Takamoto] Katsuta, let’s see where we are compared to him and the Fords but I think this is the area I should look at.