Andreas Mikkelsen put in an extremely impressive drive and notched up his first ever WRC podium on Rally Sweden on Saturday when he brought his Volkswagen Polo R WRC home in second place.
Mikkelsen ran at the front right from the off and was battling for the victory until the final day, when a slight mistake in Torntorp 1, SS18, cost him around 20 seconds and ended any hopes he had of overhauling team-mate and eventual winner, Jari-Matti Latvala.
The Volkswagen Motorsport II pilot then found himself coming under a bit of pressure from Mads Ostberg, but kept his head to ensure he took the runners-up spot.
“First time on the podium! I have longed so much for this result. To have achieved it practically on my doorstep is awesome!” he said.
“The final day here in Sweden was once again a real challenge. With the slushy snow and exposed gravel, which characterised the second loop, it was certainly not easy. I had a whiff of victory for long parts of the race – which felt great. But after a small mistake, I wasn't able to keep up the pressure on team-mate, Jari-Matti Latvala,” continued the Norwegian. “Instead, I turned my concentration on maintaining the gap between myself and Mads Ostberg in third place and in the end it was a close run thing [and I beat him by just 5.9 seconds].”
“However, [after] all [is] said and done we thoroughly deserved our second place. To have made this breakthrough in the world championship here at Rally Sweden, with some of the toughest conditions in years, makes me feel particularly proud.
"My team, my co-driver Mikko Markkula and I have earned a beer or two today. We will celebrate in style tonight,” added the two-time Intercontinental Rally Challenge champion.
Volkswagen Motorsport director Jost Capito meanwhile reckons this is definitely just the start for Mikkelsen. He also said that the 24-year-old exceeded VW's expectations during round two of WRC 2014.
“Yeah, I'm sure,” he replied when asked if we are likely to see more drives from Mikkelsen like the one witnessed in Sweden. “Last year was really the learning year for Andreas. [Team-mates] Sebastien [Ogier] had 10,000 kilometres of testing in 2012 for 2013, so he was by far in the best position and then Jari-Matti [Latvala] had quite a lot of tests when he joined, but Andreas had the minimum tests and – you know – there are not a lot of test days allowed each year. He had his first rally starting in the middle of the season and he had much less experience. [Like I said] it was a learning year for him last year, some events he had more experience than others and some less or none. He did a fantastic job learning last year and this year we said that where he is confident and he has done a couple of times then he can fight for the podium.
“Sweden was the first of these and I think he has done a fantastic job, not just fighting for the podium, but also for the victory. What's very impressive is that this is not a result which was given to him by failure or mistakes of others, he was fighting from the beginning – setting the fastest time in the first stage – and then he was on the top all of the weekend. That was much more than we have thought and we have expected a lot of him this weekend, but it was much more [that he delivered] and everybody in the team has been impressed by his performance,” Capito concluded.