› Reigning WRC2 champion Andreas Mikkelsen and co-driver Torstein Eriksen from Norway finish category second at the FIA World Rally Championship’s ninth round
› Britons Chris Ingram/Craig Drew drive another Toksport WRT run ŠKODA FABIA Rally2 evo to victory in WRC2 Junior class
› Former FIA European Rally Champion Armin Kremer and co-driver Timo Gottschalk from Germany (ŠKODA FABIA Rally2 evo) win WRC2 Masters class
Ypres (BEL), 21 August 2022 – With second place in WRC2 at Ypres Rally Belgium, Norwegian Andreas Mikkelsen (ŠKODA FABIA Rally2 evo) keeps his chances alive for the second WRC2 Drivers’ title in a row. At the ninth round of the FIA World Rally Championship, ŠKODA crews won the classes WRC2 Junior and WRC2 Masters.
Andreas Mikkelsen came as WRC2 overall leader to Ypres, a picturesque town in the western part of Belgium. With runner-up Kajetan Kajetanowicz (POL) and third-placed Emil Lindholm (FIN) absent, the Norwegian ŠKODA driver’s main focus was on Yohan Rossel. Coming to the ninth of 13 WRC rounds, the Frenchman was listed fourth in the WRC2 overall rankings. “It is important to beat my direct title rivals,” said Mikkelsen at the start line, describing his strategy for the at that point remaining two rallies of his WRC2 campaign.
During the first leg, occasional rain in combination with extensive corner cutting, which dragged loose gravel and mud onto the roads, made conditions very treacherous. Unsurprisingly, the hopes of numerous crews ended in one of the countless ditches alongside the narrow and fast tarmac stages. Initially, WRC2 saw a three-way fight of Norwegians Andreas Mikkelsen/Torstein Eriksen versus the French crews Stéphane Lefebvre/Andy Malfoy and Yohan Rossel/Valentin Sarreaud. On Saturday afternoon, it was down to a duel between leader Lefebvre and second placed Mikkelsen. The defending WRC2 champion could have pushed harder to put pressure onto Lefebvre. But the French driver, a regular in the Belgian national championship, plays no role in the hunt for the WRC2 title. So, Mikkelsen decided to play it safe. “There is a lot of gravel on the road and a lot of risk to go for it. Also, Stéphane knows the roads better. If I go off, the championship is gone,“ the Norwegian described the process of finding the right balance between speed and cleverness.
In the end, Mikkelsen reached the finish second to Lefebvre, but more important one place up on Rossel. Also, the Norwegian ŠKODA driver won the rally closing Power Stage, worth an additional three points. With one more WRC2 round to go for Mikkelsen, his lead over French title rival Rossel has increased slightly from 16 to 20 points. ”I knew, I needed to score maximum points here and in Greece,” Mikkelsen said at the finish. Although the first part of this plan didn’t exactly work out, the WRC2 champion stays optimistic. “Second place in Belgium is still not so bad. Stéphane's pace was very difficult to match and he did a great rally.”
WRC2 Junior, reserved for drivers 30 years and younger, saw two ŠKODA FABIA Rally2 evo crews on the podium. Britons Chris Ingram/Craig Drew of team Toksport WRT won the class and took fourth position in WRC2 overall. During the last four stages, 2019 FIA European Rally Champion Ingram turned a 10.6 seconds deficit on interim leader Grégoire Munster into an 8.1 seconds victory. Local hero Sébastien Bedoret and French co-driver François Gilbert of ŠKODA Motorsport customer team SXM Competition finished third. With his second class victory of the season, Ingram pipped Finnish teammate Emil Lindholm from the lead in the WRC2 Junior overall rankings. After Ypres Rally Belgium, nine points separate the two ŠKODA drivers.
On the other end of the age scale, ŠKODA crews celebrated a double victory in WRC2 Masters. Armin Kremer, like Chris Ingram a former FIA European Rally Champion, was fastest of the class reserved for drivers 50 years an older. Kremer shared a Baumschlager Rally&Racing run ŠKODA FABIA Rally2 evo with fellow German Timo Gottschalk. Multiple Belgian champion Freddy Loix and co-driver Pieter Tsjoen of ŠKODA Motorsport customer team PTR Racing came second in this class. Collecting 18 points, Loix consolidated his second place in the WRC2 Masters overall rankings behind leader Mauro Miele (ŠKODA FABIA Rally2 evo) from Italy.
From Belgian asphalt the FIA World Rally Championship now switches to rough Greek gravel. Next on the menu is Acropolis Rally Greece (8-11 September).
Result Ypres Rally Belgium (WRC2)
1. Lefebvre/Malfoy (FRA/FRA), Citroën C3 Rally2, 2:35:24.6 hrs
2. Mikkelsen/Eriksen (NOR/NOR), ŠKODA FABIA Rally2 evo, +18.1 sec
3. Rossel/Sarreaud (FRA/FRA), Citroën C3 Rally2, +1:09.1 min
4. Ingram/Drew (GBR/GBR), ŠKODA FABIA Rally2 evo, +1:35.1 min
5. Munster/Louka (BEL/BEL), Hyundai i20 N Rally2, +1:43.2 min
Number of the rally: 2
For the first time during the 2022 season, ŠKODA driver Andreas Mikkelsen finished a rally in second position. So far, the defending WRC2 champion and co-driver Torstein Eriksen won the category on three events. On the other hand, they also had to book two retirements.
Top-5 overall WRC2 Open/Drivers (after 9 of 13 rounds)
1. Andreas Mikkelsen (NOR), ŠKODA FABIA Rally2 evo, 100 points
2. Yohan Rossel (FRA), Citroën C3 Rally2, 80 points
3. Kajetan Kajetanowicz (POL), ŠKODA FABIA Rally2 evo, 76 points
4. Emil Lindholm (FIN), ŠKODA FABIA Rally2 evo, 64 points
5. Chris Ingram (GBR), ŠKODA FABIA Rally2 evo, 56 points