Mikkelsen places third at Rally Sweden
Driver Andreas Mikkelsen starts strong in this snowy stage of the World Rally Championship
Norwegian American Weekly
The top rally drivers of the world met in Värmland, Sweden, on February 13 for the three-day, 21-stage Rally Sweden. Known as the only World Rally Championship race on snow, it is the second of the competition’s 13 stages. It has been 10 years since a Norwegian last won Rally Sweden, when Petter Solberg took first place in 2005.
But Norway’s Andreas Mikkelsen was certainly up for the icy challenge. With original plans to be a professional skier and a background in slalom, Mikkelsen is no stranger to performing on snow. He later switched to rally and debuted in the World Rally Championship in 2006 after a knee injury.
He then became the first ever to win the Intercontinental Rally Challenge two consecutive times (2011 and 2012), as well as the youngest driver in World Cup history to get World Cup points. Despite his success, Mikkelsen is still chasing his first World Cup victory.
In the first World Rally Championship round of the year—held in Monte Carlo—Mikkelsen came in third behind French Sebastien Ogier of France in first and Jari-Matti Latvala of Finland in second, but he was aiming for a higher spot on the podium in Sweden.
After Day 1 of Rally Sweden, Mikkelsen led the round, and it looked like Mikkelsen just might achieve his first World Cup victory.
“Feeling quite cool to be leading the rally, especially since we have been in Norway most of the day. The stages have been packed with Norwegian flags and supporters, and it feels great to see that when we tackle the stages. Gives you a bit of extra inspiration. It didn’t quite work out in the morning, it was so slippery in the ruts, and the challenge to find grip outside the lines made it difficult to get into rhythm. It went a lot better in the afternoon, and I could really enjoy and keep that smile in the car,” reported Mikkelsen on his website.
His fellow countryman, Mads Østberg, followed shortly behind in third place.
Mikkelsen continued to lead most of Day 2, but Belgian Thierry Neuville made his way into the lead in the final stage of the day. But the Norwegian kept his spirits up, hopeful for a comeback.
“Unfortunately we lost time with a spin in the morning, but the afternoon has been really good, so it’s absolutely not over yet. Thierry has been fast all day, but he is only 1.5 seconds ahead, so there is no reason to give up!”
Day 3 of Rally Sweden consisted of only three rounds, leaving the drivers with no time for mistakes. Unfortunately, Mikkelsen hit a snow bank in the final stage, putting him in third place. Ogier took the victory once again and Neuville came in second.
“It’s very disappointing. I made just one mistake. But we will come back,” commented Mikkelsen to VG.
“It was hard to take, but now I am ready to go again. We came so close [in Sweden] and if a fight like that doesn’t get you motivated then nothing will. I feel more motivated than ever right now,” says the Norwegian to Autosport.com.
Mikkelsen left an impression on Ogier, who admitted, “He drove a great rally in Sweden; we had to be really on the maximum all the time to beat him.”
Østberg also endured a disappointing finish, ending up in tenth place.
Although Mikkelsen and Østberg had hoped for more, they both showed promise throughout Rally Sweden. There are still 11 rounds to go in the competition, and there’s no telling what will happen.
The next stage of the World Rally Championship began on March 5 in Mexico. Visit www.wrc.com/en/ to keep tabs on the competition.
This article originally appeared in the March 6, 2015, issue of the Norwegian American Weekly.