Mikkelsen makes history with Açores victory

"This is the perfect start to the season"

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By Olivier Ferret

25 February 2012 - 18:36
Mikkelsen makes history with Açores (...)

Andreas Mikkelsen has made history by becoming the first driver to win three rounds of the Intercontinental Rally Challenge in succession by claiming victory on SATA Rallye Açores today.

The ŠKODA Motorsport ace’s winning run extends back to last year when he triumphed in Scotland and Cyprus, rounds 10 and 11 of the 2011 IRC season. His triumph on the mid-Atlantic archipelago brings his tally to three in a row.

"This is the perfect start to the season, I am so happy for the team and this is perfect result for ŠKODA,” said Mikkelsen, who headed fellow ŠKODA driver Juho Hänninen and Peugeot’s Bryan Bouffier at the end of almost 200 kilometres of thrilling action.

Luca Rossetti actually won the first four IRC events he contested between 2007 and 2008 to earn the nickname ‘Mr 100 Per Cent’. However, because they weren’t on consecutive rallies, Mikkelsen takes the record, having been tied on two wins in a row with Giandomenico Basso, Jan Kopecký, Freddy Loix, Kris Meeke and Rossetti.

The full list of consecutive IRC winners is as follows:

Andreas Mikkelsen: Scotland and Cyprus 2011 and Açores 2012
Giandomenico Basso: Asturias and Sanremo, 2008
Jan Kopecký: Zlín and Asturias, 2009 and Zlín and Mecsek 2011
Freddy Loix: Madeira and Zlín, 2010
Kris Meeke: Açores and Ypres, 2009
Luca Rossetti: Istanbul and Portugal, 2008

How the day unfolded

After SS10: Mikkelsen continues to fly

Andreas Mikkelsen has claimed his seventh stage win on SATA Rallye Açores after topping the times on Saturday’s opening test, the 19.60-kilometre Graminhais run.

The ŠKODA UK Motorsport driver was 1.7s faster than second-placed Juho Hänninen, in a factory Fabia Super 2000, and now leads overall by 17.9s with four stages of this thrilling Intercontinental Rally Challenge season opener remaining.

“This was a nice stage, such a pleasure to drive, it’s fantastic,” said Mikkelsen. “But we have to keep the pressure on and not relax. When you relax it goes very much slower so we try to keep a good pace.”

Finn Hänninen, meanwhile, admitted he was struggling to keep his Norwegian rival in check: “I really tried. It was slippery a few times and I lost the line but I couldn’t do much better. I will try to keep the pressure on him.”

Running first on the road, Sepp Wiegand said the warmer and drier conditions that have greeted the crews on day three contributed to a loose gravel surface. “In some parts it was very loose and the car was too much oversteer so I lost a bit of time,” said the ŠKODA Auto Deutschland ace.

Nevertheless, the young German has moved ahead of his countryman Hermann Gassner Jr into fourth overall after the Red Bull driver approached a hairpin too quickly and stalled his car’s engine. He was 11.3s slower than Wiegand and now trails his fellow Fabia driver by 1.4s in the overall classification.

Bryan Bouffier maintains his grip on third overall despite admitting to a mistake in his Peugeot 207 S2000 when he spun and had to reverse.

After SS11: Moura grows IRC Production Cup lead

Ricardo Moura continues to dominate the IRC Production Cup following stage 11 of SATA Rallye Açores, the 22.02-kilometre Tronqueira test.

The multiple Azorean rally champion has been fastest in the category on every stage so far and leads the division by more than four minutes in the Ralliart Mitsubishi Lancer he shares with co-driver Sancho Eiró.

“Our place is determined and when it’s safe I can have some fun,” said Moura. “But we are not taking any risks.”

In the overall classification ŠKODA UK Motorsport’s Andreas Mikkelsen continues to lead with an advantage of 17.9s after he claimed his eighth stage win of the Intercontinental Rally Challenge season opener.

The defending IRC champion was 1.7s faster than rival Juho Hänninen, who has bemoaned his decision to select hard compound tyres for the morning loop of stages, which still feature damp and slippery sections despite today’s warm weather.

Hermann Gassner Jr has also opted for the hard compound Michelin tyre this morning, which he said had resulted in him slipping 9.6s behind fourth-placed Sepp Wiegand.

Bryan Bouffier was third fastest through the stage in his Peugeot 207 S2000. He maintains his strong grip on the final podium spot.

Crews are now heading to the Grupo Marques superspecial stage prior to the midday service halt in Ponta Delgada.

After SS12: Saliuk shines on superspecial

Andreas Mikkelsen might have claimed his ninth stage best on SATA Rallye Açores by winning the second run through the Grupo Marques superspecial but it was Dream Team Ukraine’s Oleksandr Saliuk who created a stir.

Saliuk, who is driving his M-Sport Ford Fiesta S2000 in competition for the first time, was third fastest over the 2.20-kilometre course in front of thousands of enthusiastic spectators.

Juho Hänninen set the second fastest time in his ŠKODA Motorsport Fabia Super 2000 with Bryan Bouffier fourth quickest in his Peugeot 207 S2000. Sepp Wiegand topped the battle to be the top German driver when he beat countryman Hermann Gassner Jr by 0.1s.

Following a 30-minute service halt in Ponta Delgada, the penultimate stage of this all-action Intercontinental Rally Challenge season-opener, Graminhais 2, gets underway at 14:38hrs local time.

After SS13: Mikkelsen edges closer to victory

Andreas Mikkelsen is one stage away from winning SATA Rallye Açores after he completed the penultimate test of the Intercontinental Rally Challenge qualifier with his lead firmly intact.

Mikkelsen’s performance, his 10th stage win of the all-gravel event, means his advantage out front over fellow ŠKODA driver Juho Hänninen now stands at 27.4s.

Bryan Bouffier reported no problems on his way to the third fastest time in his Peugeot 207 S2000 although it was a different story for Hermann Gassner Jr who completed the test with a punctured right-rear tyre.

“I hit something in the right rear and the car is not driving straight any more,” said the German ace, who falls 48.6s behind countryman Sepp Wiegand in the battle for fourth.

Wiegand reported losing a few seconds when he put a rear wheel of his Fabia into a ditch.

After SS14: Hanninen fastest as Mikkelsen wins

Juho Hänninen has completed SATA Rallye Açores by winning the final stage of the Intercontinental Rally Challenge season-opener. However, it wasn’t enough to prevent Andreas Mikkelsen from claiming a standout victory.

Finn Hänninen covered the 22.02-kilometre Tronqueira test in a time of 18m33.1s to clinch second overall on the all-gravel event at the wheel of his ŠKODA Motorsport Fabia. Mikkelsen was 2.3s slower through the test in his ŠKODA UK-backed example but wins the event by a margin of 25.1s.

Bryan Bouffier was third fastest in his Peugeot 207 S2000 with Sepp Wiegand fourth quickest and Hermann Gassner Jr fifth.

Ricardo Moura clinched the IRC Production Cup laurels in sixth overall.

Pos.DriverCarTime
1. Mikkelsen A. - Floene O. Škoda Fabia S2000 2h12:43.2
2. Hänninen J. - Markkula M. Škoda Fabia S2000 +25.6
3. Bouffier B. - Panseri S. Peugeot 207 S2000 +2:03.3
4. Wiegand S. - Gottschalk T. Škoda Fabia S2000 +5:20.3
5. Gassner jr. H. - Wicha K. Škoda Fabia S2000 +6:23.9
6. Moura R. - Eiró S. Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX +8:43.5
7. Salyuk jr. A. - Cherepin P. Ford Fiesta S2000 +10:28.1
8. Silva S. - Nunes F. Subaru Impreza WRX +16:00.1
9. Rodrigues R. - Rodrigues E. Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX +17:15.0
10. Barbosa M. - Reis J. Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX +18:01.6
11. Rego L. - Rodrigues P. Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX +18:44.0
12. Maciel P. - Gouveia F. Citroen Saxo Cup +19:41.0
13. Carmo R. - Diniz J. Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX +23:23.0
14. Medeiros É. - Rego P. Citroen Saxo Cup +24:30.0
15. Moniz H. - Machado P. Citroen C2 R2 Max +25:21.6
16. Costa C. - Amaral D. Citroen C2 R2 GT +29:34.5
17. Pimentel L. - Pimentel B. Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX +31:59.4
18. Catania D. - Salis F. Citroen DS3 R3T +58:57.5
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