Andreas Mikkelsen will return to the top tier of the World Rally Championship at Rally Italia Sardegna for the Citroen Total Abu Dhabi team on the 8-11 June.

The Norwegian driver found himself without a WRC drive for 2017 after Volkswagen Motorsport withdrew from the championship.

Mikkelsen has made three WRC-2 outings for Skoda Motorsport, winning at Rallye Monte-Carlo and Tour de Corse before rolling out from a comfortable lead on the final stage at Rally de Portugal this weekend.

Mikkelsen, a three-time WRC winner, has secured a one-off return to the top class in WRC with the factory Citroen squad by replacing Stephane Lefebvre in the #9 C3 WRC for Rally Italia Sardegna.

"It's an open secret that I have been looking for a solution to keep competing in the top category of the WRC since the end of the 2016 season," Mikkelsen said. "I'm therefore very happy to be joining the Citro?n Total Abu Dhabi WRT at Rally Italia Sardegna.

"Citro?n has an impressive competitive record in the WRC and I'm delighted to be able to work with a team like this. In winning the season's opening gravel rally, the Citro?n C3 WRC has shown it has potential and it seems to be making regular progress.

"I can't wait to get my bearings in testing and then start working on preparing for the rally. I'll no doubt be short of running time in the car at the start, but the main thing for me is to be back racing in the leading category in a strong team. I would like to thank everyone who has worked to make this opportunity possible."

Mikkelsen has also been handed a pre-event test day ahead of Rally Italia Sardegna to become familiar with the C3 WRC machine, while Lefebvre will also take part in the event's recce before returning to action at Rally Poland.

Citroen team principal Yves Matton says with results falling short of expectations so far in 2017 he sees it as a key move to give the experienced Norwegian an opportunity in Italy.

"After the first six rounds of the season, it would appear that the Citro?n Total Abu Dhabi WRT's results have fallen a little short of the targets set at the start of the year," Matton said. "At the same time, Andreas Mikkelsen has been actively looking for a drive in the WRC's top category. We have therefore come to an agreement for him to compete at Rally Italia Sardegna in one of our C3 WRCs.

"I think I can say that we are all delighted with this opportunity. Andreas has a fair amount of experience at this rally, which is not the case for us since the Abu Dhabi Total WRT didn't compete in Sardinia last year. Given his limited preparation, Andreas won't have a specific target for the rally. We'll be just looking for him to drive at a pace that is consistent with how comfortable he feels in the car.

"We would like to thank the FIA and Skoda Motorsport for agreeing to this change and St?phane Lefebvre, who is giving up his place on this rally. This is not a sanction of any kind, nor does it call into question our investment in the young drivers. The decision is merely intended to maximise Citro?n's chances.

"St?phane accepted that it was necessary to put the team first in this case; he will still be in Sardinia to take part in recce and will then be competing at Rally Poland."

The factory Citroen squad sits fourth and last in the FIA WRC manufacturers' championship after the opening six rounds and has just one rostrum result to its name - Kris Meek's victory at Rally Mexico.



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