Andreas Mikkelsen has become the 2011 Intercontinental Rally Challenge drivers’ champion, after winning the title showdown decider, the Cyprus Rally, in his factory-prepared ŠKODA UK Motorsport Fabia S2000.
In his first full season in the IRC, and his first with ŠKODA UK, Andreas’ title is richly deserved as he’s led the last six rounds of the series, won the final two rallies and set fastest time on an unmatched 38 special stages.
It’s been a highly successful IRC campaign for ŠKODA, which successfully defended its IRC manufacturers’ title. It recorded 100 fastest special stage wins out of a possible 150 during the year and six Fabia S2000s filled the top six finishing positions in Cyprus.
Co-driven by Ola Fløene, Andreas set seven (out of 11) fastest stage times in Cyprus and led for all but one stage – losing his lead momentarily after a spin on SS3.
The mixed-surface stages in the mountains above the host town of Pafos provided a great challenge and a fitting finale to a fantastic IRC season – and the event soon turned into a winner takes all spectacular when Juho Hänninen (ŠKODA Motorsport) crashed out on SS2.
Andreas survived a scare on SS8 when a nail pierced a front left tyre and the Michelin tyre didn’t deflate, while on the next stage he and 2nd placed Jan Kopecký (ŠKODA Motorsport) hit the same rock 5.5 miles (9kms) from the end of SS9 and both picked up a puncture. Andreas lost less time (12.9 seconds) as he had a rear right flat, compared to the more time-consuming front right puncture (45.5 seconds) for Kopecký, meaning that the net result was that Andreas actually increased his lead by 32.9 seconds!
Entering the final and most difficult stage with a 1min 27.3sec lead, Andreas set fastest time on SS11 to win the Cyprus Rally by 1min 40.5secs and become IRC drivers’ champion in sensational style.
In recognition of his performance and achievement, Andreas received the Colin McRae IRC Flat Out Trophy. The recipient is selected by a three man judging panel consisting of Jimmy McRae, Gilbert Roy (Eurosport) and Jean-Pierre Nicolas (IRC), and it’s the second time that Andreas has been honoured with the award (the first at the Prime Yalta Rally in Ukraine).
Andreas: “To become IRC champion is such a fantastic feeling, the likes of which I have never felt before. Five years ago a knee injury forced me to quit my alpine skiing career and since then we have put so much effort into my rallying, not just by me, but also by the people around me. To give this title back to everyone who has put so much faith in me is incredible.
“It’s been a tough season, which didn’t start so well in Monte Carlo but which has got better and better. We’ve had a fantastic second half of the year and, wow, to finish with a win in Cyprus and the IRC drivers’ title – I can hardly believe it has happened. It’s like a dream.
“The last three stages of this rally were the longest of my life and I was imagining so much noise in the car that I’ve never heard before. Crossing the finish line was very emotional and I was crying like a baby!
“I’d really like to thank everyone at ŠKODA UK Motorsport and ŠKODA Motorsport for giving me this opportunity this year. It’s a special moment for everyone.”
Ola: “I was a little scared of making a mistake on the final stage, but in the end everything was perfect. When I stood on the podium and heard the national anthem, I begun to realise what we’ve achieved, but for sure I’ll need more time for it to sink in properly.”
Robert Hazelwood, ŠKODA UK Director: “What an incredible end to the 2011 IRC season. I’m personally delighted for Andreas and Ola on their fantastic season, which has resulted in two wins and the IRC drivers’ title. Their championship win is richly deserved, as they’ve been getting faster and faster throughout the year and held their nerve under pressure – and nowhere more so than in Cyprus. Andreas is a very mature and quick driver, and it didn’t take him long to achieve his first major rally title. Many congratulations from everyone at ŠKODA UK.”
Cyprus Rally finishing positions (provisional after SS11)
1. Andreas Mikkelsen/Ola Fløene (ŠKODA Fabia S2000)….2hrs 25mins18.5secs
2. Jan Kopecký/Pavel Dresler (ŠKODA Fabia S2000)….+1min 40.5secs
3. Patrik Sandell/Staffan Parmander (ŠKODA Fabia S2000)….+2mins 54.8secs
4. Karl Kruuda/Martin Järveoja (ŠKODA Fabia S2000)….+4mins 33.0secs
5. Freddy Loix/Frédéric Miclotte (ŠKODA Fabia S2000)….+5mins 25.4secs
6. Matthias Kahle/Peter Göbel (ŠKODA Fabia S2000)….+7mins 48.9secs
7. Toshi Arai/Dale Moscatt (Subaru Impreza R4 STI)….+8mins 16.2secs
8. Mark Wallenwein/Stefan Kopczyk (ŠKODA Fabia S2000)….+13mins 06.7secs
9. Jean-Michel Raoux/Laurent Magat (Renault Clio R3)….+14mins 36.4secs
10. Doros Loucaides/Savvas Laos (Peugeot 207 S2000)….+15mins 07.8secs
IRC points (after Round 11)
1. Andreas Mikkelsen….153.5pts
2. Jan Kopecký….152pts
3. Juho Hänninen….125pts
4. Freddy Loix….123pts
5. Thierry Neuville….115pts
6. Bryan Bouffier….110.5pts
7. Guy Wilks….47pts
8. Patrik Sandell….44pts
9. Toni Gardemeister….43pts
10. Karl Kruuda….39pts