High five for Andreas Mikkelsen on Barum Czech Rally

Andreas Mikkelsen was the fastest driver on Leg 2 of the Barum Czech Rally Zlín, setting four fastest times over the six stages to finish a magnificent 5th in his ŠKODA UK Motorsport Fabia S2000. Co-driven by Ola Fløene, he finished just 6.1 seconds away from 4th, despite losing almost two minutes with a puncture on Leg 1, when he was fighting for the lead.

ŠKODA recorded a stunning result on its home round of the Intercontinental Rally Challenge (IRC), with Jan Kopecký, Freddy Loix and Juho Hänninen making it a 1-2-3 finish - the second time in two years that the Fabia S2000 has scored a podium whitewash in the Czech Republic. Kopecký’s 1.2 second victory margin was the closest in IRC history. The result sees Hänninen, Kopecký and Loix 1-2-3 in the IRC drivers’ standings, while ŠKODA extends its lead to 94 points in the manufacturers’ championship.

Andreas was delighted with his performance, on what he described as his best rally on asphalt of his career. Having led the rally after SS2, the 22-year old FIA Institute Young Driver Excellence Academy driver was in 2nd position when he collected a rear left puncture on SS8, to finish Leg 1 in 6th.

A thunderstorm on Saturday night made Sunday’s Leg 2 stages near Zlín and Otrokovice damp and slippery in places – precisely the type of challenging conditions that Andreas thrives on.

Bryan Bouffier crashed out on the opening stage of the day, allowing Andreas to move up to 5th, as his sights were set on catching the man who started the final day 18.2 seconds ahead of him, Thierry Neuville. Fastest time on SS10 and 11 saw Andreas reduce the gap to 12.3 seconds, but when Andreas overshot a junction on SS12 and had to reverse back up an escape road, the difference was back up to 17.5 seconds.

The morning’s three stages were repeated in the afternoon, and Andreas was once again quickest on SS13 (15.2 seconds faster through the second running of the famous Maják stage) and SS14 to reduce the gap to 11 seconds. Andreas pushed hard on the final stage to take more time out of his targeted rival, reducing the gap to 6.1 seconds between the two drivers at the end of the final stage.

Andreas: “The performance has been great. Okay, we are a little bit unlucky to collect a puncture, but the speed is there and when we go flat out we are at the top, so the potential is there for sure. To be battling for the lead with Jan [Kopecký] on his home rally on leg one, and setting four fastest stage times on leg two, is very positive. Before I considered myself much more a gravel driver, but I’ve been learning a lot about asphalt rallies and now, especially after this rally, I feel very comfortable on asphalt. We have some good rallies for us coming up and the rest of the IRC will very interesting.”

The next round of the IRC is the Mecsek Rallye in Hungary in two weeks time (9-11 September).

Barum Czech Rally Zlín  - provisional results1. Jan Kopecký/Petr Starý (ŠKODA Fabia S2000)….2hrs 15mins 51.7secs2. Freddy Loix/Frédéric Miclotte (ŠKODA Fabia S2000)….+1.2secs3. Juho Hänninen/Mikko Markkula (ŠKODA Fabia S2000)….+37.4secs4. Thierry Neuville/Nicolas Gilsoul (Peugeot 207 S2000)….+1min 59.6secs5. Andreas Mikkelsen/Ola Fløene (ŠKODA Fabia S2000)….+2mins 05.7secs6. Toni Gardemeister/Tapio Suominen (ŠKODA Fabia S2000)….+3mins 43.2secs

IRC Drivers’ points (after Round 7)1.Hänninen….98pts2.Kopecký….95pts3. Loix….88pts4. Bouffier….61pts5. Neuville….60pts6. Mikkelsen….56pts7. Wilks….47pts

IRC Manufacturers’ (after Round 7)1. Skoda….275pts2. Peugeot….181pts3. M-Sport….70pts4. Subaru….51pts5. Ralliart….49pts