Andreas Mikkelsen and co-driver Torsten Eriksen are the 2023 WRC2 champions thanks to their Wolf Power Stage victory at Central European Rally on Sunday*.
In perhaps one of the most remarkable turnarounds Mikkelsen has experienced in his career, the Norwegian driver clinched the crown despite finishing in 13th place and more than 13 minutes rally winner Nicolas Ciamin.
Mikkelsen’s chances of wrapping up the title on pace alone vanished on Friday morning when his Škoda Fabia RS Rally2 left the road, a mishap which cost around 10 minutes.
But, with his closest championship rival Yohan Rossel out after hitting a tree, Gus Greensmith was the only remaining driver who stood a realistic chance of preventing Mikkelsen’s celebrations at this penultimate round of the season.
Greensmith's own struggles, including a puncture on day one, limited the Briton’s standing to fourth place. Crucially, his failure to score any Wolf Power Stage bonus points - coupled with Mikkelsen’s benchmark time through the finale - meant that both he and Mikkelsen ended the rally with 111 points apiece.
Mikkelsen, unlike his rival, still has one scoring round remaining. His three victories so far this season, compared with Greensmith’s two, earned him the title on countback. Regardless of his result at FORUM8 Rally Japan next month, the 34-year-old can no longer be beaten.
"We knew that we had nothing to lose going into the Power Stage," Mikkelsen revealed. "It was win it or bin it, we were really flat-out and everything was working perfectly in that stage. I am very happy that it was enough!"
At the sharp-end of the field, Škoda man Ciamin was elevated into the lead before Sunday’s opening stage when event-long pacesetter Emil Lindholm retired his Hyundai i20 N Rally2 with alternator failure. The Frenchman pulled clear of second-placed Erik Cais to claim his first WRC2 triumph by 32.7sec.
“It's fantastic,” he said. “A few times I have been in a good position for a good result in WRC2, and it's always failed. I am very happy to bring home the result this time after many years.”
Kajetan Kajetanowicz completed the podium ahead of Greensmith, while Miko Marczyk and Nikolay Gryazin rounded out the top six.
*Subject to confirmation of results by the FIA