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Rally and Endurance

Tuesday 10th April 2012


Armagh, 10 April 2012 – A fantastic drive saw ŠKODA UK Motorsport’s Andreas Mikkelsen finish 2nd on The Donnelly Group Circuit of Ireland Rally and maintain his lead in the Intercontinental Rally Challenge. The reigning champion finished 44.2 seconds behind Juho Hänninen (ŠKODA Motorsport)after a breathtaking battle for victory, with Jan Kopecký taking the final podium position to complete a stunning 1-2-3 finish for ŠKODA.

Co-driven by Ola Fløene, this was Andreas’ first rally in Ireland for five years. With a compact route and all 15 stages taking place in just over 24 hours, the action was always going to be fierce over the fast, bumpy and narrow asphalt country lanes.

The two-day event started on Good Friday with a spectacular super-special stage around the Titanic Quarter in Belfast – where ŠKODA UK Motorsport Team Principal Pierfrancesco Zanchi gave Northern Ireland First Minister Mr. Peter Robinson a run around SS1 in the Fabia S2000 test car.

The cancellation of the second run through the rally’s longest stage at night (SS5) shortened Leg 1, meaning that just 0.6 seconds separated Andreas and Hänninen (the 2010 IRC champion) at the first overnight halt in Armagh – despite Andreas hitting a wooden fence on SS3.

The battle continued on Saturday, where Andreas had to drive flat-out to lessen the disadvantage of fitting soft Michelin tyres, when conditions weren’t as damp as the team anticipated. Pushing so hard had its consequences, including hitting a road-side rock when taking a crest flat-out in sixth gear sideways on SS6 and overshooting a slippery junction on SS8.

Andreas survived an even bigger moment on SS9 when his car snapped sideways five times as he fought to control the high-speed tank-slapper. Yet he was 4.8 seconds faster over the stage, reducing a nine second deficit to just 2.3 seconds after SS11.

Having driven heroically on some of the most demanding stages in the IRC, nobody expected the shortest stage of the event – a 0.8 mile (1.03km) stage around the streets of Lisburn – to decide the outcome of the result. On a wet and slippery surface, Andreas slid sideways into a straw bale, damaging the right hand side of the car, losing 40 seconds and leaving him dazed. He finished the stage 42.7 seconds behind Hänninen and although three stages remained, the battle was over.

Robert Barrable finished a strong 6th in his ŠKODA Ireland Fabia S2000.

Andreas: “Juho did a fantastic rally and made no mistakes – I bow and take my hat off to him. We had a chance to win, but we made a mistake and had to settle for second.

“What cost us the chance of victory was a left hand corner in Lisburn. It was raining and very slippery and I just lost the car and went sideways into a hay bale, and we lost a lot of time. It was quite a hard hit. I was a bit dazed, and to be honest I don’t remember so much about it. I was happy to be able to finish the last three stages, because I wasn’t feeling so good.

“The Circuit of Ireland is a rally I really wanted to win, as did the whole team, and we came so close after a good fight. It’s a shame not to win, but we scored a lot of points for finishing second and things continue to look good for the championship.”

The next round of the IRC is the Tour de Corse (11-12 May).

Circuit of Ireland – top 10 results (provisional after SS15)

1. Juho Hänninen/Mikko Markkula (ŠKODA Fabia S2000).…1hour 58mins 21.8secs

2. Andreas Mikkelsen/Ola Fløene (ŠKODA Fabia S2000)….+44.2secs

3. Jan Kopecký/Pavel Dresler (ŠKODA Fabia S2000)….+1min 39.5secs

4. Mathieu Arzeno/Renaud Jamoul (Peugeot 207 S2000)….+4mins 01.6secs

5. Craig Breen/Gareth Roberts (Peugeot 207 S2000)….+4mins 53.8secs

6. Robert Barrable/Damien Connolly (ŠKODA Fabia S2000)….+5mins 14.5secs

7. Sepp Wiegand/Timo Gottschalk (ŠKODA Fabia S2000)….+6mins 15.9secs

8. Garry Jennings/Barry McNulty (Mitsubishi Lancer)….+8mins 27.9secs

9. Mark Donnelly/Andrew Purcell (Mitsubishi Lancer)….+9mins 11.4secs

10. Sam Moffett/James O’Reilly (Mitsubishi Lancer)….+9mins 16.0secs
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