Why Mikkelsen needs to find speed in the Polish lakes

Andreas Mikkelsen has struggled to find his feet aboard Hyundai’s i20 Rally1. Could Poland change all of that?


I haven’t asked Andreas Mikkelsen the question. And I’m not sure I’d get an honest answer if I did. But there must have been moments in Monte Carlo and Croatia last week, when the consideration of being careful what you wished for might have crossed his mind.

If it did appear, which I doubt it did, it would have gone in a flash. Ultimately, Mikkelsen’s in one of eight seats which the rest of the rallying world dream of.

But is his time in that seat in danger of becoming a nightmare?

Certainly, he’s not loving life at the moment. Learning a radically new car and doing so on his least favourite surface is not easy. Teemu Suninen tried it last year and immediately talked of the difficulties and the need for more testing time to come to terms with the temporary deployment of an added 134bhp. The Finn had managed it and managed it well by the end of last year – a fact which brings yet further pressure to Mikkelsen’s shoulders.


Mikkelsen won a pair of WRC2 titles on his way back to the top flight, helping to secure a return to Hyundai and a chance in their Rally1 car

The amiable Norwegian has been working away at finding a route back to the sport’s top table for the last four years. And he’s worked well. For two of those years he’s won the sport’s second division title. Few would deny he’s earned his seat.

But there was something of a double-take when his program was announced. The driver who had, by his own admission, had a nightmare last time he was in a Hyundai on Tarmac in 2019 had been handed an asphalt-based program by the same team.

Slightly bemused, Mikkelsen grasped the opportunity with both hands. But when he closed the door, he must have wondered what he’d let himself in for. Immediately, he found a car that was “night and day” better than its Tarmac-trim predecessor, but it was going to take him time. Especially on asphalt.

Why especially on asphalt?

“Maybe some drivers are different,” he told DirtFish. “At least for me on gravel, it’s much easier surface than on Tarmac. I think it’s much more forgiving and things happen slower, so let’s say, it feels much easier to drive fast on a gravel rally than fast on a Tarmac rally.”

Of the 37 stages Mikkelsen has completed across Monte and Croatia, his best result has been a single fourth fastest time. There’s no point raising this with the three-time world rally winner. He knows it and he feels it more keenly than anybody.

2024CROATIA_FD_ 197

A solitary fourth fastest stage time in Croatia has been the peak of Mikkelsen's pace since he returned to the top class of the WRC in 2024

I’ve known Andreas for his entire career and I’m not sure I’ve seen him more frustrated than he’s felt in the early part of this season. He’s the most upbeat, polite and genuine driver you’ll have the privilege to meet. When I’ve been critical of him, he’s always been the first to come over and shake hands the next time we meet – he understands the need for honest, credible appraisal of his performance.

But in Zagreb earlier this month, the irritation at the situation was closer to the surface. I watched closely as colleagues questioned him on his performance and there was a brief flicker of exasperation across his face. It was a longer blink, a brief look away. He would never have said as much, but he would very much rather have been somewhere else.

Somewhere else would definitely include a gravel rally. A gravel rally like the one where, in three years, he won and finished second twice. Like Poland. Happy days. He’s off to Mikołajki.

Rally Poland 2016

Poland is where Mikkelsen scored his second of three WRC victories with the all-conquering Volkswagen team

Talking to Mikkelsen in the wake of Croatia, you can feel the energy when you shift the conversation away from Zagreb and towards the Polish Lake District. He feels more comfortable, he’s at ease and he knows what he can do there.

“I really do believe,” he said, “that if there’s one rally we can really fight at the front, it should be that one.”

It won’t be easy. His lack of seat time and experience aboard the i20 Rally1 Hybrid will still be obvious, but Mikkelsen himself will be more comfortable with the environment he’s in.

Leaving service from the shadow of the imposing Hotel Gołebiewski, bound for the Masurian stages, he will have only good memories from the years between 2014 and 2016 (less so when he manhandled a Citroën C3 WRC to ninth in 2017, but let’s not get sidetracked by that). Granted, the Polish gravel will be softer and more rutted than the Finnish roads where he’s likely to test for what’s going to be his sole loose surface outing of the season, but he’ll take the dirt.

I don’t feel 100% with the car and I think that’s quite clear to see in my stage times. Andreas Mikkelsen

Mikkelsen: “I still need to discuss the test with the team and the preparation leading up to it, but for sure I’ll have some time in the car, I just hope it’s enough to try to be competitive in Poland.

“I don’t feel 100% with the car and I think that’s quite clear to see in my stage times. It’s not gelling completely like I was hoping it would, and there’s several reasons to that. I think, for sure, there’s things to improve my feeling with the car, but we’re fairly close. I must say I’m quite happy with the car, but it’s just some small things which I think can be improved to help the confidence of drivers.”

From the team’s perspective, they would probably like a little bit more speed, but they don’t want too much. Don’t forget, Mikkelsen’s running the third car.


Mikkelsen finished sixth in Monte Carlo, and struggled to adapt to the additional power from the hybrid system as well as the downforce of the Rally1 aerodynamic package

In Monte and Croatia he finished behind team-mates Thierry Neuville and Ott Tänak, so he was there to pick up more points if either fell off the road. Admittedly, Cryil Abiteboul might have liked to see him ahead of Adrien Fourmaux in the Alps and maybe Takamoto Katsuta last time out, but having Mikklelsen force the pace and push harder could have had a detrimental and panel-bending effect. Better he stayed on the road and provided a sixth-placed safety net.

For the team.

Mikkelsen? As we said, he wants more. And he’s got more to give. Poland could be the key to unlocking that pace and potential.