Volkswagen's Andreas Mikkelsen finished second on Rally Finnskog last weekend in a Skoda Fabia S2000, completing the icy eight stage event just 10.3 seconds behind Mads Ostberg.
The result gives the Intercontinental Rally Challenge champion and former Skoda UK Motorsport driver the lead in the Norwegian Rally Championship, but more importantly it completes a highly successful two-rally pre-season test programme in which he and new co-driver Mikko Markkula were able to fine-tune their pace note system under competitive conditions.
The 63.2 mile Rally Finnskog was held on snow and ice-covered forest roads near Kongsvinger in Norway. There were four different special stages, each tackled twice.
Ostberg led initially, before a fuel pump problem on SS3 gave a hard-charging Mikkelsen the lead. Despite the normally-aspirated Fabia S2000 being less powerful that Ostberg's turbocharged Fiesta RS WRC car, Andreas held onto the lead until the penultimate stage. Just 1.1 seconds separated the duelling duo as they entered the final stage, and despite it being a treacherously slippery 14.7 miles long, Mikkelsen was only 9.2 seconds slower than Ostberg at the flying finish.
Coming two weeks after finishing second on the Arctic Rally in Finland, the performance on Rally Finnskog concluded what had been perfect pre-season preparation, as the thoughts of Mikkelsen and Markkula now turn to their next rally together, their debut for Volkswagen Motorsport on Rally Portugal in April.
“Rally Finnskog was another really good event for Mikko and I to establish our pace note system even more and the fight we had with Mads Ostberg in his World Rally Car showed that we can be very fast in a car together,” said Mikkelsen. “Mikko and I have done some testing together, but it's a lot better to do some proper rallies and I'd like to thank EVEN management for letting us drive its Skoda Fabia S2000 and contest the Arctic and Finnskog events.
“It has been two very valuable rallies for us, before the serious business starts in Portugal.”