How Intercontinental Challenge champion found his way on Irish soil
Published 08/11/2011 | 09:35
Andreas Mikkelsen, the new Intercontinental Challenge champion, may be Norwegian but he cut his rally teeth in the UK and Ireland.
Mikkelsen claimed the IRC title with a last stage victory in the final round in Cyprus, edging out Czech Jan Kopecky by a single point in the championship chase.
Mikkelsen, now 22 and the youngest IRC champion, was just 17 when he began his rally career in the British and Irish Tarmac championships.
Too young to qualify for a driving licence in Norway, he moved to the UK, passing his driving test just two days before making his rally debut on the Quinton Rally in England — which he won!
Over the next two years Mikkelsen was a regular on events like the Circuit of Ireland, finishing third in 2007, the Ulster, Donegal and Killarney Internationals, driving WRC Ford Focuses for the Ramsport team.
Young, talented and handsome, he won a wide fan base here with his attacking style and his impeccable manners. He found willing mentors in drivers like Irish Tarmac champion Eugene Donnelly and British champion Mark Higgins before moving on to the world stage.
He had limited success in the WRC but it was his move to the Intercontinental Challenge, where Kris Meeke was champion in 2009, that propelled Mikkelsen back into the spotlight.
This year he was a controversial choice to replace Guy Wilks in the Skoda UK team — Wilks had moved to take Mini-bound Meeke’s place at Peugeot UK — with critics asking why a Norwegian and not a British driver.
But Mikkelsen proved an inspired choice, becoming an instance front runner and finishing strongly with back-to-back wins in Scotland and Cyprus to deny Skoda’s “favoured son” Kopecky the IRC title.
Irish fan forums have been have been quick to add their congratulations to a rising star who they long ago dubbed “wonder kid”.