Andreas Mikkelsen has been forced to withdraw from Rally Germany before the event even starts after co-driver Mikko Markkula was diagnosed with two fractured vertebrae.
Markkula had complained of back pain during the final day of the previous event in Finland only for the pain to subside following the finish, with the pain being put down to muscle tension.
However, when the pain returned during the recce for the German event, the team took the decision to send the Finn for an MRI scan which revealed a fracture of the seventh vertebra and a partial fracture of the eighth vertebra.
With no time to bring in a replacement, the team has now taken the decision to withdraw the #9 Volkswagen Polo WRC from its home event, leaving Sebastien Ogier
and Jari-Matti Latvala
to fly the VW flag.
“Safety comes first, particularly when it comes to Mikko Markkula's health,” Volkswagen Motorsport Director Jost Capito said. “The fractured vertebrae were not easy to diagnose, which is why we took our time to ensure that we made the right decision.
“It would have been too risky to send Andreas Mikkelsen out with a co-driver, alongside whom he has not driven a single metre prior to the rally and who did not take part in the recce. Andreas has changed his style of pace note this season, and Mikko is the only co-driver familiar with them. Unfortunately they must both withdraw from the Rally Germany and are very disappointed. Everyone in the team has their fingers crossed that Mikko will make a speedy recovery.”
Mikkelsen admitted he was disappointed to be forced out of the event but insisted that Markkula's health had to come first.
“I was very much looking forward to the Rally Germany and am disappointed that we cannot line up at our team's home event,” he said. “However, the health of my co-driver Mikko Markkula obviously takes priority. I hope his two vertebrae heal quickly and we can start together in the World Rally Championship again soon.
“We have worked hand in hand this season to develop what, for me, is a completely new system of pace notes, with which only he is familiar. It was not possible to find a replacement with such little time before the start of the rally. I will now try to support the team as much as possible in other ways. At least we completed the recce, so we can call on that information over the coming years.”
"We are really disappointed," Markkula added. "I also feel sorry for the team, for whom we wanted to get a good result at our home rally. I am now hoping to get back to full fitness as soon as possible.”