Patrik Sandell will contest seven rounds of the 2011 Intercontinental Rally Challenge with backing from Skoda Sweden.

Sandell, 28, has competed in the World Rally Championship since 2006, when he won the Junior WRC title. For the past two years he has driven a Skoda Fabia S2000 for the Red Bull Rallye Team, supported by Skoda Sweden.

He will now take the opportunity to make the switch to the IRC. When we started planning the season and added up all the factors, we realised pretty soon that the IRC was the ideal solution for us this year,” he explained. “Framförallt för att konkurrensen i Super 2000-klassen kommer att bli mycket hÃ¥rdare där än i SWRCAbove all, the competition in the Super 2000 class will be much harder than in the SWRC in 2011.If we were to continue in the WRC there would only be a handful of drivers fighting for the title. Här känns det som att det är tio-femton som kan vinna varje tävling, säger Patrik Sandell. It feels like there’s ten to fifteen who can win every rally [in the IRC].”

In addition to increased competition, Sandell also stated that the chance to try out new events attracted him to the IRC. “I've done the Finnish World Rally five times. Det är visserligen ett fantastiskt roligt rally, men jag vet ärligt sagt inte hur utvecklande det är att köra det en sjätte gÃ¥ng. It is certainly a terrific rally, but I do not honestly see how stimulating it is to drive it for a sixth time. DÃ¥ tror jag att den här utmaningen ger mig mycket mer i längden, säger Patrik. Then I think that this challenge gives me much more in the long run.”

Sandell will be co-driven by Staffan Parmander, former co-driver to Kenneth Eriksson. Parmander replaces Emil Axelsson, who has become P-G Andersson's navigator. His Skoda Fabia S2000 will be run by Czech team JM Racing, with support from Skoda Motorsport. Although he will no longer drive for the Red Bull Rallye Team, the energy drinks company will continue to sponsor him.

Skoda Sweden's support of Sandell's programme is the largest investment from a Swedish importer for many years. “Skoda is celebrating 110 years in motorsport this year, so there is a long tradition and much experience behind this effort,” said Henrik Svensson, press officer for Skoda Sweden. “Det ska bli spännande att följa Patrik och Staffan, och om de lyckas under säsongen kan framtiden bli riktigt riktigt intressant, säger Henrik Svensson, pressansvarig för Skoda Sverige.It will be exciting to follow Patrick and Staffan, and if they succeed this season the future could be really interesting.”

Sandell's seven-round programme will begin on the Tour de Corse, round three of the IRC season, on 13-15 May. In the meantime, he will start his home round of the WRC, Rally Sweden, on 10-13 February.