A delighted Andreas Mikkelsen said that finishing 2nd on the Sanremo Rally, an event he expected to be his least favorable in this year’s Intercontinental Rally Challenge, was “like a win” after he scored a sensational result in his ŠKODA UK Motorsport Fabia S2000. Co-driven by Ola Fløene, a relaxed Andreas led the rally three times, set four fastest stage times and came within 1.5 seconds of winning one of the world’s classic asphalt rallies.
The technical stages, situated high in the mountains above the Italian Riviera, are well known by many drivers – but not Andreas, who had only started the Sanremo Rally once before. Having led the last three rounds of the IRC, Andreas arrived in Sanremo on top form – and immediately continued that excellent run by setting fastest time on the opening stage. He remained at the top of the leaderboard for most of Day 1, courtesy of four fastest stage times over the opening six stages. The battle was extremely close, and Andreas’ 4.5 second lead after SS6 was to be the largest of the entire event.
The final stage of Day 1 was the longest of the rally, with the 27.34 mile (44km) Ronde stage (SS7) tackled at night. The 22-year old FIA Institute Young Driver Excellence Academy pilot completed it in 29mins 42.9secs, despite a close encounter with the local wildlife. Andreas went into the overnight halt 2.7 seconds behind Freddy Loix (ŠKODA) – a perfect position in which to monitor his rival’s progress, as Loix started Day 2 one car ahead and first on the road.
The final day of the rally witnessed a three-way battle for the lead, with Andreas returning to the top of the leaderboard on the opening stage (SS8). Loix crashed out on SS11, leaving just 0.3 seconds separating Andreas and Thierry Neuville as they entered the final stage (SS13).
Andreas gave it everything, setting a time 9.1 seconds quicker than he’d had on his first run through the same stage to score a magnificent 2nd place finish – just 1.5 seconds behind Neuville after nearly 2 hours and 20minutes of flat-out competition.
“I’m really happy with our performance and result here in Sanremo. At the start of the season I expected this would be my weakest rally, because the stages are so well known by many drivers and the roads are very technical. To be able to lead the event for such a long time and to fight for victory against Tarmac experts like Freddy Loix and Thierry Neuville is far more than I was expecting – and to finish second in Sanremo is like a win for me.
“The whole team has done a fantastic job this weekend and the performance has been there since the start. We’re looking forward to our home event in Scotland next, which should be one of our strongest events.”
The rewards for scoring a good result on the RACMSA Rally of Scotland (7-9 October) are high, as the event operates a 1.5 co-efficient points scoring system.
Sanremo Rally results
1. Thierry Neuville/Nicolas Gilsoul (Peugeot 207 S2000)….2hrs 19mins 57.8secs
2. Andreas Mikkelsen/Ola Fløene (ŠKODA Fabia S2000)….+1.5secs
3. Bryan Bouffier/Xavier Panseri (Peugeot 207 S2000)….+16.0secs
4. Jan Kopecký/Petr Starý (ŠKODA Fabia S2000)….+1mins 09.1secs
5. Bruno Magalhães/Paulo Grave (Peugeot 207 S2000)….+1mins 26.0secs
6. Alessandro Perico/Fabrizio Carrara (Peugeot 207 S2000)….+3mins 47.8secs
7. Umberto Scandola/Guido D’Amore (Ford Fiesta S2000)….+4mins 05.9secs
8. Pierre Campana/Sabrina de Castelli (Peugeot 207 S2000)….+4mins 28.0secs
IRC points (after Round 9)
3. M-Sport Ford….80pts
4. Ralliart Mitsubishi….73pts