'Manic Manx for Mikkelsen!'. Norwegian teenager Andreas Mikkelsen put in an impressive display on this weekend's Rally Isle of Man. The 17 year old from Baerum set a fastest stage time and put in a string of excellent stage performances on ...
'Manic Manx for Mikkelsen!'.
Norwegian teenager Andreas Mikkelsen put in an impressive display on this weekend's Rally Isle of Man. The 17 year old from Baerum set a fastest stage time and put in a string of excellent stage performances on the tough three day rally. A round of both the British and Irish Rally Championships, the event would give Andreas his toughest challenge yet on the unforgiving roads native to the small island in the Irish sea.
Driving his Michelin shod Ford Focus WRC05, Mikkelsen and fellow Norwegian co-driver Ola Floene were positive before the event having completed a good recce of the unique stages. Fast, wide sections of tarmac roads allow the cars to reach maximum speed, in contrast to the narrow and bumpy country lanes that they are mixed in with. The Isle of Man also has one of the most unpredictable weather climates, where sunshine and rain are never far apart.
With this in mind, the recent winner of the Quinton and Coracle Stages was keen to get off to a good start. Five stages lay in wait on the opening evening of the event, and Mikkelsen was soon to realise how tricky Rally Isle of Man was going to be. Tarmac novice Andreas clipped a rock on the opening stage, smashing a wheel in the process. He then had a couple of overshoots and half spins as the fast stages showed why they require such specialist knowledge. Dramas aside, Mikkelsen was going well. His times were good enough to hold down a Top 10 position, and he then set fastest time on the short Castletown 2 stage, much to the delight of the spectators present who enjoyed his passage through the stage. By the end of the first leg, Andreas and Ola were in a solid 8th place, just over one minute behind the event leader.
Day two would bring out the classical Manx weather. Low cloud and mist, wet roads, and a strong wind were all factors to be considered. All was going well in the opening stage, but Andreas was to leave the road after a very deceptive crest. The Focus WRC hit a bank on the outside, and was beached. 19 minutes were lost extricating the car from the field, meaning that the crew had gone over their time limit for the day. Andreas completed the next loop of stages before the RamSport team withdrew him under SupeRally regulations. The Focus would be re-prepared to allow the team to contest the Trophy Rally that ran over the final leg of the event.
Andreas suffered a front puncture on the opening test on Saturday morning, so he and Ola changed the tyre in the stage. He then stalled the car at a hairpin on the SS20, but still only lost 10 seconds to the fastest time. Starting the long final stage, Mikkelsen caught and passed an amazing four cars in the stage as he flew through the test. Despite finishing in a lowly 46th overall, Andreas and Ola were really pleased to have gained so much experience on such a demanding event:
'This was an amazing rally for me' said Andreas at the finish. 'I made a lot of very small mistakes in places, and I have learned so much about driving here. It was difficult to know when to stop pushing hard and when to take it a little bit easier on the stages. It was also a very good test for our pace notes, and I think they worked pretty well. Leaving the road on Stage 6 was a little bit frightening, but we were lucky not to do any real damage to the car. The best thing from the weekend is definitely the experience you gain with things like tyres. The speed of the top Irish crews is very impressive, so I was really pleased to take a fastest time on this event. I was also pleased that we were able to set Top 3 stage times as well, and when things went ok on the stages, we could get quite close to the best times. I feel as though I have learned more by doing this rally than I have in all the other rallies I have done so far. I hope I can do some events in Ireland in the future as the level of competition seems very good with those guys.'
Mikkelsen now returns to Norway to begin his schooling at the NTG, an elite institute for talented sports men and women within Norway. Mikkelsen will join the Motocross students initially as a course geared to suit his needs as a rally driver is still being implemented.