Andreas Mikkelsen has sealed a two year contract with Hyundai Motorsport in the World Rally Championship, promoting him to a full-time seat until the end of 2019 ahead of his debut with the Korean marque next weekend.
Mikkelsen had been left without a drive after Volkswagen’s sudden withdrawal from the series at the end of 2016, and began the current season with Skoda Motorsport in the WRC2 category.
A short stint with Citroen followed, competing in Italy, Poland and Germany in a factory C3 WRC, before switching to Hyundai to replace Hayden Paddon for Rally Spain in a week’s time.
Despite having yet to complete a single kilometre of competitive action in the i20 WRC, the Alzenau-based squad have immediately put faith in the three-time WRC rally winner to deliver.
“I am delighted that Hyundai Motorsport has offered me the chance to return to the WRC with a full-time seat for 2018 and 2019,” said Mikkelsen.
“Even before my first rally with the team, I feel that I have settled in quickly, and it is clear to me that I am joining a world-class team with realistic chances of fighting for both Drivers’ and Manufacturers’ championships.
“I look forward to helping to achieve these goals from Rallye Monte-Carlo next year, and making my own presence felt in the drivers’ title fight.”
Mikkelsen scored a second place finish at Rally Germany in only his third appearance with the Citroen team last month, and team principal Michel Nandan pointed to the Norwegian’s adaptability as a crucial factor in deciding their line-up.
“Andreas is one of those rally drivers who fits in quickly and just gets straight down to business,” said Nandan. “From the few times he has already been to visit the factory in Alzenau, his determination and professionalism have shone through. We are pleased to have him on board in a full-time capacity for two complete seasons.”
“He has already had the chance to experience the Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC in testing, and has delivered us positive and useful feedback. He has also driven our i20 R5, which has further allowed him to integrate into all areas of our team.
“We can’t wait to see him in action as a Hyundai Motorsport driver in the final three events of the season, into next year and beyond.”
Mikkelsen’s permanent arrival has thrown the long-term futures of both Paddon and Dani Sordo into doubt, with no indication that Hyundai plan to expand beyond its current three car line-up for next season.
Hyundai have struggled to keep pace with M-Sport in the constructors’ championship this season, with Paddon and Sordo unable to match the consistent points scoring form of Ott Tänak and Elfyn Evans.
Given lead driver Thierry Neuville is locked in a title battle with reigning champion Sebastien Ogier, and Mikkelsen’s deal has been confirmed as being full-time, it is expected that Paddon and Sordo will be forced to share the third and final seat for the 2018 season, at which point the pair’s respective deals expire.