“We have a decent lead, so we will be driving cautiously. It’s all about avoiding unnecessary risks. Our ŠKODA FABIA R5 is working perfectly and we are improving our feel for the car all the time. We have to remain focused so that we can claim victory for ŠKODA,” said Mikkelsen. The 27-year-old Norwegian drove in challenging conditions once again – clean asphalt road surfaces disappeared in the mountains around the service park in Gap, France, to be replaced by snow-covered stages – but he never lost control of his high-tech 4×4. Thousands of fans came out to cheer Mikkelsen on.
In the first two morning stages, he let his team-mate Kopecký and Bryan Bouffier move ahead but then showed just how fast he can be with outstanding best times on special stages eleven and 13. Mikkelsen has dominated the first two days of the rally, recording the best time on six stages.
On Saturday, Jan Kopecký won his second special stage at this year’s Monte and was never in danger of losing second place. “The conditions were challenging once again, but we didn’t have any problems. We now have to focus on not making mistakes and bring this result home,” commented the experienced Czech driver. The ŠKODA works duo of Pontus Tidemand/Jonas Andersson (S/S), who are not competing for WRC 2 points at this rally, did not have such a smooth ride on Saturday. The duo suffered two punctures on this sunny day, but recorded an impressive best time in the penultimate special stage to announce their return.
“This is our first Monte and it’s all about getting experience, which is sure to help us as we battle for the WRC 2 title this season,” commented Tidemand. Last year, Esapekka Lappi/Janne Ferm (FIN/FIN) won the WRC 2 title in the drivers’ and co-drivers’ competitions for the first time for the ŠKODA Motorsport works team.
The teams have already raced along more than 300 kilometres at this opening round of the 2017 World Rally Championship but the real high point of the oldest rally in the world is yet to come for the three ŠKODA works team drivers. The rally cars have to deal with a difference in elevation of over 1100 metres on their way to the Col de Turini (1607 metres). This is followed by the last four special stages in the Principality of Monaco and the awards ceremony at the “Place du Palais Princier”. 40 years ago, Václav Blahna (CZ) and his co-driver Lubislav Hlávka (CZ) claimed victory with their ŠKODA 130 RS in the 1,300cc class. The three ŠKODA FABIA R5s from the works teams are commemorating this triumph with a special livery. On Sunday at the Rally Monte Carlo, ŠKODA Motorsport could set another milestone in its 116-year history of success.
Standings at the Rallye Monte Carlo (WRC 2):
1. Mikkelsen/Jæger (N/N) ŠKODA FABIA R5 2:11:15.4 hrs
2. Kopecký/Dresler (CZ/CZ) ŠKODA FABIA R5 + 3:19.2 min
3. Bouffier/Giraudet (F/F) Ford Fiesta R5 + 5:26.7 min
4. Camilli/Veillas (F/F) Ford Fiesta R5 + 8:42.7 min
5. Gilbert/Jamoul (F/B) Ford Fiesta R5 + 9:48.4 min
The number of the day: 4
Thousands of fans were entertained on Saturday, on and off the track. At the service park in Gap, France, the spectators were able to watch the mechanics at work on the rally cars no less than four times. However, there is no service on Sunday. On Saturday evening, all the cars were transported to the parc fermé in Monaco, where the winner of the Rally Monte Carlo will be crowned on the final day.
2017 FIA World Rally Championship (WRC 2)
Rally Monte Carlo 19.01.–22.01.2017
Rally Sweden 09.02.–12.02.2017
Rally Mexico 09.03.–12.03.2017
Rally France 06.04.–09.04.2017
Rally Argentina 27.04.–30.04.2017
Rally Portugal 18.05.–21.05.2017
Rally Italy 08.06.–11.06.2017
Rally Poland 29.06.–02.07.2017
Rally Finland 27.07.–30.07.2017
Rally Germany 17.08.–20.08.2017
Rally Spain 05.10.–08.10.2017
Rally Great Britain 26.10.–29.10.2017
Rally Australia 16.11.–19.11.2017