Volkswagen's Andreas Mikkelsen says it is “simply fantastic” to have won Rally Poland, although he does “feel” for Ott Tanak after the Estonian's late misfortune.
Mikkelsen looked set to have to settle for second but in Baranowo 2, the penultimate stage, Tanak was slowed by a puncture, losing just over 40 seconds. That handed the lead to Mikkelsen and the Norwegian duly swept through to claim the win, 26.2secs ahead.
It was his second victory in the WRC – and his first with his current co-driver, Anders Jaeger.
“The feeling is of course great. I think we did a good weekend and probably my best-ever performance, pushing very hard from the first metre of the first stage to the last metre of the last stage. Ott did an amazing rally I have to say,” Mikkelsen reflected. “It was hard to keep up with the pace.”
“Today the conditions we met meant we knew anything can happen and, especially because of these conditions, we tried to never give up,” he added.
“On the second loop it was so rough. We knew we needed a fast pace to keep the pressure on Ott. I feel for him and Raigo [Molder], who were denied victory by a puncture so close to the finish. [But] what happened to Ott happened to me in Sweden [last year].
“I am happy with the work we have done. To win the rally is simply fantastic, [especially] as it is the first win together with my co-driver Anders.”
Asked what it was like to drive flat-out on the final day, given the conditions were so muddy and rough, he replied: “I think when you are flat-out it is not so bad. You go in with full commitment but the last stage was different. When you have a lead of 16 seconds it is much worse.
“We knew we had to take more risks in these conditions. They were risks that we were willing to take to fight for the place.”
Meanwhile, Mikkelsen insisted he did think he could win this morning, when he saw how the weather had changed.
“When I saw the conditions I thought everything can be possible if we were to push on all four stages [despite the 21.3sec overnight gap to Tanak in P1].
“When you have to go fast to win in these conditions it is not so easy. A puncture is so costly. We were lucky. We got out and nothing happened. We had the luck this time,” concluded the Norwegian.