PHOTO: Andreas Mikkelsen (right) and co-driver Øla Floene celebrate victory in Spain’s WRC Rally Catalunya (Volkswagen pic)
VOLKSWAGEN driver Andreas Mikkelsen bagged a dramatic FIA World Rally Championship maiden victory after his world champion teammate Sebastien Ogier dashed a 50-second lead against a crash barrier in Spain’s Rally Catalunya today.
The 26-year-old Norwegian had arrived at the finish of the rally-closing Power Stage believing he had scored second place and appeared disbelieving at first when told Ogier had crashed and retired on the road behind him.
Volkswagen’s third driver Jari-Matti Latvala followed Mikkelsen up the leaderboard to second place, 3.1 seconds in arrears, while Dani Sordo finished third for Hyundai on his home event.
Until his uncharacteristic crash, Ogier had led the championship’s 12th round comfortably since Friday afternoon and needed only to cruise to the finish near Barcelona.
But the Frenchman, who clinched his third world title at Coates Hire Rally Australia last month, ran wide on a fast left-hand bend and hit a steel barrier, tearing the right-front wheel off his Polo R WRC car.
Ogier appeared shocked as he walked away from the wreck, while at the finish point Mikkelsen and co-driver Øla Floene climbed on to the roof of their car to celebrate.
“I really don’t know what to say. This is unbelievable,” said Mikkelsen, who was moved to tears.
“This is not exactly the way I wanted to claim my first win. But I am still very happy.”
Mikkelsen had made a modest start to the season’s penultimate round, finishing sixth after Friday’s gravel first leg.
When the surface switched to asphalt on Saturday, he overtook Mads Ostberg (Citroen), Sordo and Ott Tanak (M-Sport Ford) and was just 2.9 sec. behind his more experienced teammate Latvala at the overnight stop.
With second place in the drivers championship still in his sights, Mikkelsen pushed hard today and claimed four of the final six tests, including the bonus-points Power Stage.
He remains third in the standings but with maximum points from Spain has narrowed the gap to Latvala going into Wales Rally Great Britain in three weeks’ time.
Citroen’s Ostberg and Kris Meeke – fourth and fifth respectively – kept the French squad narrowly ahead of Hyundai in the race for second spot in the prestigious Manufacturers Championship
Results, Rally RACC Catalunya-Costa Daurada (Rd 12 of 13, provisional):
- A Mikkelsen / O Floene (Volkswagen Polo R WRC) 3:21:04.8
- J-M Latvala / M Anttila (Volkswagen Polo R WRC) +3.1
- D Sordo / M Martí (Hyundai i20 WRC) +21.2
- M Østberg / J Andersson (Citroën DS3 WRC) +1:06.33
- K Meeke / P Nagle (Citroën DS3 WRC) +1:08.2
FIA Drivers’ standings (after Rd 12):
- S Ogier 238 points
- JM Latvala 180
- A Mikkelsen 154
- M Østberg 110
- K Meeke 94
- T Neuville 90
- E Evans 81
- D Sordo 77
- H Paddon 74
- O Tanak 63
FIA Manufacturers’ standings (after Rd 12):
- Volkswagen Motorsport 387 points
- Citroën Total Abu Dhabi World Rally Team 206
- Hyundai Motorsport 202
- M-Sport World Rally Team 173
- Volkswagen Motorsport II 116
Rd 13, Wales Rally Great Britain, 12-15 November