After running away with a Monte Carlo Rally WRC2 win last month, Andreas Mikkelsen is expecting a much tighter fight on this week’s Arctic Rally Finland.
The Toksport Škoda driver celebrated victory by close to two minutes from Adrien Fourmaux in the French Alps. He’s chasing back-to-back class wins in Rovaniemi, but he’s aware of some rapid locals coming in his direction in Lapland.
“When you are competing in Finland,” Mikkelsen told DirtFish, “you are always up against really fast locals and that will be the same here. The event is quite new to everybody, but there will be some guys who have done this rally recently. And, of course, there’s Esapekka [Lappi] coming as well.
“In Monte Carlo, that’s a rally which is quite complicated and you need some good experience of the event – I have done it a few times. I’m definitely expecting this week will be a bigger challenge to win.”
Lappi, who exited the top class of the WRC at the end of 2020, will drive a brand new Volkswagen Polo R5 alongside Nikolay Gryazin. Fourmaux will once again represent M-Sport, but this time he’ll be joined by Czech veteran Martin Prokop. Hyundai will field 2020 WRC3 champion Jari Huttunen and Ole Christian Veiby.
Mikkelsen will have a new team-mate at Toksport this weekend because visa issues have denied Bolivian driver Marco Bulacia access to Finland. In his place will be Eyvind Brynildsen, who last competed for the team on Rally Italy last year.
Three-time WRC event winner Mikkelsen believes the fast nature of the roads on Arctic Rally Finland would make WRC2 domination difficult.
“You don’t really see the big time gaps on an event like this,” he added. “The roads are fast and, for some time, everybody is at the maximum speed. The gaps will be smaller from the beginning to the end – and, don’t forget, some of the guys have already done the Arctic [Lapland Rally] last month, so they have some more recent experience.”
High-speed rallies represent the biggest change in grip level for a driver coming from World Rally Car to Rally2 level, with the limited aero on the second tier cars.
“It’s true,” said Mikkelsen, “it will be quite noticeable that we don’t have the same downforce in the high speed. That’s something to get used to on this event.
“But with all of that, my aim is the same – I want to win.”
Mikkelsen’s stated aim at the start of the season wasn’t just to win the WRC2 title; he wants to be the first Rally2 car home on every event he partakes in.