THE 2016 Kennards Hire Rally Australia winner Andreas Mikkelsen will test a Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC in Portugal on Friday and could join the team from Rally Portugal onwards, British magazine Autosport reports today.
The Norwegian was the only top driver to miss out on a new seat after Volkswagen withdrew from the championship at the end of 2016, although he has made winning appearances in WRC2 this season for Skoda at Monte-Carlo and Corsica.
Autosport Rallies Editor David Evans says Mikkelsen’s management team has been in negotiations with Toyota, Hyundai and Citroen, with a deal expected within the next week.
Late last week, sources indicated Toyota was the most likely option for Mikkelsen, potentially as a replacement for Juho Hanninen, who has suffered a troubled start to the season.
But that prediction changed when Hyundai agreed to let Mikkelsen attend its pre-event test in Portugal on Friday, leading to speculation about the creation of a possible Hyundai WRC super-team of Thierry Neuville, Hayden Paddon, Dani Sordo and Mikkelsen.
Mikkelsen would not be drawn on details of the latest negotiations, but told Autosport.com: “I hope something will be organised very soon.
“We are talking to everybody, but it’s not just this year or next year – it’s the future. It’s looking positive and more positive than when we were talking last time in Sweden.”
The decision to allow Mikkelsen to test has surprised many of the sport’s insiders, given that Neuville, Sordo and Paddon all have confirmed Hyundai contracts until the end of next season, Evans says.
“It looks like this is the start of Hyundai taking its WRC commitment to the next level: a four-car team for next year with those guys would be all-but unbeatable,” Evans quoted a source as saying.
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