Andreas Mikkelsen says he's postponed dreams of battling for the World Rally Championship title until 2018 as he looks to use next season to secure a factory drive after Volkswagen's surprise withdrawal, starting with a WRC2 drive with Skoda at Rally Monte Carlo.
Mikkelsen, along with team-mates Sebastien Ogier and Jari-Matti Latvala, found themselves without drives in WRC for 2017 after Volkswagen Motorsport made a late call to exit the sport at the end of this season.
While Ogier and Latvala have secured factory driver for 2017 with M-Sport Ford and Toyota Gazoo Racing respectively, due to the lack of race seats Mikkelsen has found himself without a full-time drive for 2017.
As a result, Mikkelsen will enter Rally Monte-Carlo with an initial one-off outing for Skoda Motorsport in WR2.
“The consequence of Volkswagen withdrawing from the championship is that all the WRC seats were already taken. Therefore, my 2017 season will be all about keeping my rally-overall warm and finding a seat in the right team to be able to fight for the WRC champion title in 2018,” Mikkelsen said. “We don't know what the upcoming season will bring yet. I hope to get to drive as much as possible and we are working on a plan to do selected rallies”
Returning to Skoda sparks fond memories for the Norwegian driver having claimed the 2011 and 2012 International Rally Championship crown with the team before graduating up to Volkswagen Motorsport in 2013.
Mikkelsen, who has been on the rostrum for the past two years at Rally Monte Carlo, is relishing the challenge in WRC2 to provide a bright start to 2017 after a frustrating off-season.
“It feels a bit like coming home. It was Skoda that gave me a chance in the beginning and together we got to celebrate two champion titles in the IRC championship, which gave me the opportunity to drive for Volkswagen Motorsport,” Mikkelsen said. “Now that the situation is like it is, I think it will be fun to compete for Skoda again. We have many good memories.
“I hope we manage to give Skoda the results they want in Monte Carlo. It is a difficult rally, but I've had good results there before. This year we finished second and it was also Anders' [Jæger, co-driver] first WRC round in a WRC car. So, we were definitely left with a nice feeling from the event – even though it might be the most difficult rally in the WRC.”
Mikkelsen is yet to confirm his full 2017 rallying plans after Rally Monte Carlo.