Milton Keynes, 29 March 2012 – ŠKODA UK Motorsport’s Andreas Mikkelsen will return to Ireland for the first time since 2007, when the Intercontinental Rally Challenge Champion and current points leader contests the team’s home round of the series, The Donnelly GroupCircuit of Ireland Rally, in his Fabia S2000.
Andreas contested several rounds of the Irish Tarmac Championship when he was 18-years old, which included a 3rd place finish on the Circuit of Ireland (the year it was called the UAC Easter International Rally). Having initially visited Ireland as a young rally apprentice, Andreas now returns as the driver all IRC competitors aim to beat.
Andreas will be co-driven, as he was in 2007, by Ola Fløene – and having never rallied around the host town of Armagh before, a good recce and accurate pace notes will be the first steps towards success. Andreas hopes that his detailed pace note system – which has up to nine separate descriptive remarks for one corner, delivered in a combination of English, Norwegian and Swedish words, whichever is the easiest and quickest for Ola to say – and the title-winning performance of the Fabia S2000 will help him challenge for victory against the top IRC and Irish opposition.
The Circuit of Ireland has received the strongest IRC entry of the season so far. Eight Super S2000 cars are on the list, with five Fabia S2000s driven by Andreas, Juho Hänninen and JanKopecký (ŠKODA Motorsport), Sepp Wiegand (ŠKODA Germany) and Robert Barrable (ŠKODA Ireland). Barrable, from Swords in Co. Dublin,won the prestigious Billy Coleman Award in 2010 and has already shown his class in the IRC, after scoring a top 10 finish on the 2011 Geko Ypres Rally in Belgium.
The Circuit of Ireland National Rally has also received a magnificent entry, which includes John Mulholland, dealer principal ofŠKODA retailer Mulholland Motors in Randalstown, driving an Octavia WRC. He’ll be co-driven by Eamon Gorman.
Andreas: “I did rounds of the Irish Tarmac Championship in 2007, and the stages and the atmosphere were both fantastic, so I’m really looking forward to going back. I’ve never rallied around Armagh, but I expect it will be typical Irish stages – fast, very bumpy, narrow lanes, with gravel in places and really slippery if it’s wet. You can’t find anything quite like an Irish road in any other rounds of the IRC, or anywhere else in the world. I think this year’s Circuit of Ireland will be a good rally for us, as it will suit my driving style.”
The Donnelly Group Circuit of Ireland Rally starts outside Belfast City Hall at 16.00 on Friday 6 April and goes into what promises to be a sensational Titanic Super Special Stage at the Titanic Quarter, which forms part of the Titanic Festival. From there, the rally moves to Armagh, where two stages (Drummond, 8.09 miles/13.03kms and Legane, 15.71 miles/25.29kms – the longest stage of the event) are tackled twice; the second time at night. After 48.8 miles (78.54kms) of competition, the first cars are expected to check into the overnight parc ferme in Armagh at 22.35.
Leg 2 on Saturday 7 April starts at 08.00 and contains 10 stages, beginning with a loop of three stages (Redrock 15.6 miles/25.12kms, Drumhillery 8.9 miles/14.32kms and Hollow 9.1 miles/14.66kms) to the south and east of Armagh. All three are repeated after service in Armagh, before two runs over the Lisburn city centre stage (which attracted 15,000 spectators last year), a 4.69 mile/7.55km stage north of Banbridge and another run over Redrock completes the action. The rally finishes in Armagh at 19.00, after 137.61 miles (221.47kms) of flat-out driving.
Edited daily highlights from the event will be broadcast on Eurosport – check TV listings for times.
Andreas will attend two ŠKODA retailer events before the Circuit of Ireland, where rally fans can meet and chat to the IRC Champion. These will take place at Mulholland Motors in Randalstown on Saturday 31 March (14.30-16.30) and at Mervyn Stewart in Belfast on Tuesday 3 April (19.00-21.00). He’ll also be one of the special guests at the Rally Forum, which takes place in the Armagh City Hotel on Wednesday 4 April, starting at 20.00.