Mikkelsen joins Citroen factory line-up for Italy

Andreas Mikkelsen will contest next month’s Rally of Italy in a factory Citroen C3 WRC.

Mikkelsen joins Citroen factory line-up for Italy
Winner Andreas Mikkelsen, Volkswagen Motorsport
Andreas Mikkelsen, Anders Jäger, Skoda Fabia R5
Andreas Mikkelsen, Anders Jäger, Skoda Fabia R5
Stéphane Lefebvre, Gabin Moreau, Citroën C3 WRC, Citroën World Rally Team
Stéphane Lefebvre, Citroën World Rally Team
Stéphane Lefebvre, Gabin Moreau, Citroën C3 WRC, Citroën World Rally Team

The Norwegian’s debut in a Citroen will be a one-off for the Sardinian round of the championship as the French firm aims to get its season back on track.

Team principal Yves Matton said: "After the first six rounds of the season, it would appear that the Citroen Total Abu Dhabi WRT's results have fallen a little short of the targets set at the start of the year.

“At the same time, Andreas Mikkelsen has been actively looking for a drive in the WRC's top category. We have therefore come to an agreement for him to compete at Rally Italia Sardegna in one of our C3 WRCs. I think I can say that we are all delighted with this opportunity.”

Mikkelsen, who was scheduled to drive a Skoda Fabia R5 on the event, will take over Stephane Lefebvre’s car in Alghero. Matton wouldn’t be drawn on his expectations of last year’s Rally Australia winner – but said his experience would be valuable to Citroen.

Matton added: “Andreas has a fair amount of experience at this rally, which is not the case for us since the Abu Dhabi Total WRT didn't compete in Sardinia last year.

"Given his limited preparation, Andreas won't have a specific target for the rally. We'll be just looking for him to drive at a pace that is consistent with how comfortable he feels in the car.”

A delighted Mikkelsen said he couldn’t wait to get back to the pinnacle of world rallying.

He said: “It’s an open secret that I have been looking for a solution to keep competing in the top category of the WRC since the end of the 2016 season. I'm therefore very happy to be joining the Citroen.

“Citroen has an impressive competitive record in the WRC and I'm delighted to be able to work with a team like this. I can’t wait to get my bearings in testing and then start working on preparing for the rally.

"I'll no doubt be short of running time in the car at the start, but the main thing for me is to be back racing in the leading category in a strong team. I would like to thank everyone who has worked to make this opportunity possible.”

Matton confirmed, meanwhile, that Lefebvre would be back in the car for the following round in Poland.

Lefebvre and Craig Breen were both kept on alongside team leader Meeke for Citroen's fully-fledged WRC return after auditioning with part-seasons in 2016.

But Lefebvre's best result of 2017 so far is eighth in the old DS3 in Sweden and he was only 13th in Portugal last weekend after an early crash.

"This is not a sanction of any kind, nor does it call into question our investment in the young drivers," Matton said. "The decision is merely intended to maximise Citroen's chances.

"Stephane accepted that it was necessary to put the team first in this case; he will still be in Sardinia to take part in the recce and will then be competing at Rally Poland."

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