Mikkelsen Steals IRC Title With Dominant Cyprus Win

Ola Floene and Andreas Mikkelsen - Photo Credit: ircseries.com
Andreas Mikkelsen (right) celebrates his victory with co-driver Ola Floene - Photo Credit: ircseries.com

Andreas Mikkelsen has won the Intercontinental Rally Challenge title after a dominant victory on Rally Cyprus.

The Norwegian Skoda UK driver entered the rally fourth in the drivers' standings, but used the double points awarded in Cyprus to overturn a 19.5 point deficit to Jan Kopecky, who finished the rally in second place in his factory-entered Skoda.

Mikkelsen was quickest through the rally-opening street stage in Pafos on Thursday evening, but briefly lost it to Thierry Neuville when he spun on SS3 on Friday morning.

He would regain the lead on the next stage when Neuville lost more than two minutes with a puncture and subsequent battery problems. The Belgian, winner of the prestigious rallies in Corsica and Sanremo this year, would be forced to retire all together due to alternator failure on the following test.

Neuville joined another title contender and 2010 champion Juho Hanninen on the sidelines, the Finn having crashed out on the rally's first proper stage.

This left the championship a straight fight between Mikkelsen and Kopecky. Nasser Al-Attiyah was separating the pair on the rally in his Ford, ending Saturday 20 seconds behind Mikkelsen and 25 seconds ahead of Kopecky.

Mikkelsen extended his lead over the Qatari to 26.8s on Sunday morning, before an engine problem at midday service brought the Dakar winner's rally to an end. Both Mikkelsen and Kopecky picked up punctures on the first stage of the afternoon loop, but it was the Czech driver who lost the greater amount of time. 1m40s separated the pair by the end of the rally, as Mikkelsen won the title by just 1.5 points from Kopecky.

Patrick Sandell scored his first IRC podium in third after a rally-long battle with Freddy Loix. The Belgian would fall back to fifth by the finish behind Karl Kruuda after developing engine troubles.

Matthias Kahle finished a strong sixth for Skoda Deutschland to complete a top six lockout for Skoda. Toshi Arai finished seventh in his Subaru to claim the Production Cup title, ahead of Mark Wallenwein in a second Skoda Deutschland entry. Jean-Michel Raoux clinched the 2WD title in ninth overall, with Doros Loucaides finishing as the top local driver in tenth.

2011 Cyprus Rally – Results after 11 stages:

Pos. Driver Team Car Time/Gap
1 Andreas Mikkelsen Skoda UK Skoda Fabia S2000 2:25:18.5
2 Jan Kopecky Skoda Motorsport Skoda Fabia S2000 1:40.5
3 Patrik Sandell Skoda Sweden Skoda Fabia S2000 2:54.8
4 Karl Kruuda ME3 Skoda Fabia S2000 4:33.0
5 Freddy Loix BFO Skoda Skoda Fabia S2000 5:25.4
6 Matthias Kahle Skoda Deutschland Skoda Fabia S2000 7:48.9
7 Toshi Arai Team Arai Subaru Impreza R4 8:16.2
8 Mark Wallenwein Skoda Deutschland Skoda Fabia S2000 13:06.7
9 Jean-Michel Raoux 100% Sport Renault Clio R3 14:36.4
10 Doros Loucaides Privateer Peugeot 207 S2000 15:07.8

Final drivers' standings after 11 rounds:

Pos. Driver Points
1 Andreas Mikkelsen 153.5
2 Jan Kopecky 152
3 Juho Hanninen 125
4 Freddy Loix 123
5 Thierry Neuville 115
6 Bryan Bouffier 110.5
7 Guy Wilks 47
8 Patrik Sandell 44
9 Toni Gardemeister 43
10 Karl Kruuda 39