ŠKODA UK Motorsport’s Andreas Mikkelsen has extended his lead in the Intercontinental Rally Challenge, after finishing 2nd on the Rally Islas Canarias El Corte Inglés.
Co-driven by Ola Fløene, the IRC champion enjoyed an incredibly close battle with Jan Kopecký (ŠKODA Motorsport), as the two factory-prepared Fabia S2000 drivers set the fastest time on all 15 special stages. Despite driving flat out for more than two hours over the fast and twisty asphalt mountain roads high above the host town of Las Palmas, the gap between the leading two drivers was never more than 5.1 seconds – until an engine misfire on the final stage settled the battle in Kopecký’s favour. Andreas lost over 30 seconds on the final test and dropped to 2nd place – although the ŠKODA duo were still over three minutes ahead of the rest of the field.
The 1-2 result sees ŠKODA score maximum points for the second time this year, increasing its lead at the top of the IRC Manufacturers’ table.
Andreas had identified the Canary Island-based event as one of the most difficult IRC rounds to win, yet, running as car number 1 for the first time in his IRC career, he began by setting fastest time on the opening three stages. After the loop of stages had been repeated, his advantage was 5.1 seconds.
Andreas went into the overnight halt 1.2 seconds behind Kopecký, but regained the lead on Leg 2’s opening stage. A further two fastest times re-established a 4.4 second advantage, before Kopecký fought back on SS13 and 14. Kopecký was just 0.1 seconds quicker on the penultimate stage, despite Andreas running with a misfire for the last 3kms. He and Ola attempted to diagnose the fault before entering the final stage, but had to complete all 16.12kms with a misfire, costing them all hopes of victory. At the final service, the ŠKODA UK Motorsport engineers discovered the problem was a broken injector connector.
Andreas: “The whole team did such a fantastic job on this rally, so we are very unlucky to pick up a misfire so close to the finish. To finish second and score eighteen points is of course good, but I really wanted to win this rally and so did the team. I improved my driving on Tarmac a lot last year and also during this event, and whilst I’m really disappointed not to have scored my first IRC win on Tarmac here in Gran Canaria, I promise to come back stronger. Hopefully the Circuit of Ireland will be a good rally for us.”
The next round of the IRC is ŠKODA UK Motorsport’s home event, the Donnelly Group Circuit of Ireland Rally (6-7 April).
Rally Islas Canarias El Corte Inglés – top 10 results (provisional after SS15)
1. Jan Kopecký/Pavel Dresler (ŠKODA Fabia S2000)….2hrs 21mins 46.5secs
2. Andreas Mikkelsen/Ola Fløene (ŠKODA Fabia S2000)….+28.3secs
3. Luis Monzón/Jose C. Deniz (Peugeot 207 S2000)….+3mins 13.6secs
4. Sepp Wiegand/Timo Gottschalk (ŠKODA Fabia S2000)….+4mins 32.0secs
5. Jonathan Perez/Enrique Velasco (Peugeot 207 S2000)….+7mins 00.3secs
6. Joan Vinyes/Jordi Mercader (Suzuki Swift S1600)….+9mins 00.3secs
7. Gorka Antxustegi/Gabriel Suárez (Suzuki Swift)….+9mins 18.9secs
8. Angel Marrero/Victor Marrero (Honda Civic Type R)….11mins 27.4secs
9. János Puskádi/Barna Godor (ŠKODA Fabia S2000)….+12mins 03.3secs
10. Rashid Al Ketbi/ Khalid Al Kendi (ŠKODA Fabia S2000)….+14mins 43.2secs
IRC points (after Round 2)
1. Andreas Mikkelsen….43pts
2. Jan Kopecký…25pts
3. Sepp Wiegand….24pts
4. Juho Hänninen….18pts
5. Bryan Bouffier….15pts
6. Luis Monzón…15pts