Andreas Mikkelen says “a weight has been lifted off his shoulders” after he claimed his maiden WRC victory in Spain's RallyRACC Catalunya-Costa Daurada.
Mikkelsen was busy fighting for second with Jari-Matti Latvala on the final day and had just come through the event ending Power Stage quickest to ensure he took the runners-up spot, when news filtered through that Sebastien Ogier had crashed out, gifting the Norwegian the win.
Speaking afterwards, the Volkswagen Motorsport II pilot revealed that he never thought his first WRC win would come in Spain and that the enormity of it all has still to sink in.
“Coming into this weekend, I had one strategy and that was to secure third place [in the Championship]. Maybe Wales could be the one [to win], when I'm completely free,” he said. “We struggled a lot on Friday, but we knew on Saturday things could change on tarmac.
“I have to dedicate this win to my engineer Richard [Browne]. We came here without a tarmac test, but we found a set-up I was happy with really quickly. After that, we fought back as hard as we could and in the end we were closing on Jari-Matti when he had his problem yesterday [in SS12].
“Today I woke up on the right foot but still I think I was thinking about Wales… It felt really good, like I could take the fight to Jari-Matti and I managed to catch him a little bit. Then he had his puncture [in SS21] and I was a little bit ahead. I had a big moment in the first corner of the [penultimate] stage and after that it was so tight. I knew I had to get the perfect stage. During the whole rally, I hadn't been able to get it, but finally I got it and it was enough to take on Jari-Matti.
“When I got the message from Jules [Porter, WRC TV] and Colin [Clark WRC Live] I couldn't believe it. I know these guys, when there's a small moment it's: “Ah he crashed, he crashed,” but when we heard on the team radio that he [Ogier] had stopped in the stage…
“I still can't believe this has happened! It was a great ending for me. Of course I am sad for Seb, but if he wants to win the Power Stage then he has to take some risks.
“In the end, it's fantastic for me. It's been a long ride – a really long ride. It feels like the weight has gone from my shoulders. Now I've done it, it should be easier to do it again.”
Asked if there were tears at the stage end, Mikkelsen replied: “Yeah, it has been a long ride through many good and bad stories – to finally get this first win – we've been working a long time. Of course it's emotional.”
As for how it compares to his previous successes - and in particular his back-to-back titles in the now defunct Intercontinental Rally Challenge - he added: “This came so suddenly, I can't compare this to winning the IRC in Cyprus – I was so nervous before that last stage.
“But here I was not so nervous before the last stage, there were no nerves because I was fighting for second and I have fought for second before.
“I am so happy not knowing we were fighting for first, I would have been a lot more nervous if that happened! I'm sure it will sink in, but it's going to take some time.
“It's so surprising.”