10 October 2011
WRC » IRC: Mikkelsen claims maiden win in Scotland
Andreas Mikkelsen claimed a popular maiden IRC win on the Rally of Scotland, confirming Skoda as manufacturers' champion for 2011.
Andreas Mikkelsen's long wait for his first victory in the Intercontinental Rally Challenge is over after he won RACMSA Rally of Scotland to set up a thrilling six-way battle for the IRC title on the final event of the season in Cyprus next month.
Mikkelsen's success, combined with Juho Hanninen's second place, handed Skoda its second IRC manufacturers' title in as many years, and also confirmed the 22-year old Norwegian as the youngest IRC event winner, as well as the sixth different victor in this year's series, such has been the extremely open and competitive nature of the series in 2011.
Bryan Bouffier was the leading Peugeot finisher in third overall to maintain his title push, with Irishman Craig Breen a hugely impressive fourth overall in his M-Sport Ford Fiesta. Peugeot France driver Bouffier overcame brake problems on Sunday morning, while Breen's ultimate pace on the final day was masked by a cracked exhaust manifold.
Jan Kopecky maintained his lead at the top of the IRC standings by finishing fifth, but will face opposition from Skoda Motorsport team-mate Hanninen, Team Peugeot Belgium-Luxembourg's Thierry Neuville, Mikkelsen, Bouffier and Freddy Loix in his bid to land his first drivers' crown after finishing runner-up for the last two years. The IRC concludes in Cyprus over 3-5 November.
Mikkelsen, in a Skoda UK-backed Fabia Super 2000, moved into the Rally of Scotland lead on Saturday's second stage and was in control from the moment Peugeot UK's Guy Wilks spun into a ditch and got stuck on stage five, Errochty.
Co-driven by fellow Norwegian Ola Floene, Mikkelsen began the final day with a lead of 50.7secs. Although the first two slippery stages through the stunning Stirlingshire countryside this morning were trouble-free for Mikkelsen, a right-rear puncture six kilometres from the end of Sunday's third test allowed Hanninen to trim his advantage to less than 30 seconds.
Mikkelsen hit back with the fastest time through stage twelve before another puncture, this time his front-right tyre three kilometres from the finish of the next run, caused further anguish. But after completing the two stages around Scone Palace on the outskirts of Perth unscathed, Mikkelsen was able to celebrate a popular and hugely deserved victory having come close on several occasions this season.
"What a fantastic weekend," MIkkelsen enthused, "We were so close to winning in Hungary and even closer in Sanremo, but we could not have found a better place to score our first IRC win on Skoda UK's home event. The feeling is just amazing and this result gives us something to really build on for our next rally in Cyprus.
“I finished second here last year and arrived with great memories but this, of course, is even better. Even with the mud, we have experienced I have enjoyed this event so much. The stages are so fast and so flowing – this time there was not quite so much grip as in 2010 but it was very enjoyable sliding the car about.
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