Skoda UK Motorsport's Andreas Mikkelsen will return to Ireland for the first time since 2007, when the Intercontinental Rally Challenge Champion and current points' leader contests the team's home round of the series, The Donnelly Group Circuit of Ireland Rally, next week.
Mikkelsen contested several rounds of the Irish Tarmac Championship when he was 18-years old, which included a third place finish on the Circuit of Ireland - although that year it was called the UAC Easter International Rally.
Having initially visited Ireland as a young rally apprentice, he now returns as the driver all IRC competitors aim to beat.
He will be co-driven, as he was in 2007, by Ola Floene - and having never rallied around the host town of Armagh before, a good recce and accurate pace notes will be the first steps towards success.
Mikkelsen hopes that his detailed pace note system - which has up to nine separate descriptive remarks for one corner, delivered in a combination of English, Norwegian and Swedish words, whichever is the easiest and quickest for Floene to say – and the title-winning performance of the Fabia S2000 will help him challenge for victory against the top IRC and Irish opposition.
The Circuit of Ireland has received the strongest IRC entry of the season so far. Eight Super S2000 cars are on the list, with five Fabia S2000s driven by Mikkelsen, Juho Hanninen and Jan Kopecky, Sepp Wiegand and Robert Barrable.
“I did rounds of the Irish Tarmac Championship in 2007, and the stages and the atmosphere were both fantastic, so I'm really looking forward to going back,” Mikkelsen said. “I've never rallied around Armagh, but I expect it will be typical Irish stages – fast, very bumpy, narrow lanes, with gravel in places and really slippery if it's wet.
“You can't find anything quite like an Irish road in any other rounds of the IRC, or anywhere else in the world.
"I think this year's Circuit of Ireland will be a good rally for us, as it will suit my driving style.”