Rallye Monte-Carlo: ŠKODA FABIA Rally2 evo driver Andreas Mikkelsen goes into final leg as WRC2 leader

› During the Saturday leg, Norwegians Andreas Mikkelsen and co-driver Torstein Eriksen of ŠKODA Motorsport backed team Toksport WRT defended top position in the category
› Russian crew Nikolay Gryazin/Konstantin Aleksandrov (ŠKODA FABIA Rally2 evo) climbs to fifth position in WRC2
› Four stages left at the FIA World Rally Championship season opener

Monte-Carlo, 22 January 2022 – Andreas Mikkelsen is on track of repeating his 2021 WRC2 victory at Rallye Monte-Carlo. With two of three legs finished at the season opener, the Norwegian at the wheel of a ŠKODA FABIA Rally2 evo holds a 22.4 seconds lead in the category. Toksport WRT teammates Nikolay Gryazin from Russia and Briton Chris Ingram also have WRC2 championship points in reach.

While the stages on Thursday and Friday were basically completely dry, the Saturday leg finally brought some parts of typically “Monte” conditions. The 20.79 kilometres from Saint-Geniez to Thoard had stretches of snow and ice in stock. To make tyre selection even more complicated, two more stages, again consisting of basically nothing than dry tarmac, had to be driven with the same set of six tyres. “You need slicks for 95 per cent of these three stages. But with the nearly treadless tyres, you will be in deep trouble on the remaining five per cent covered in ice and snow,” Andreas Mikkelsen explained.

The reigning WRC2 Champion opted for a creative tyre selection. He left the service with four slicks mounted and two studded Pirellis in the back of his ŠKODA FABIA Rally2 evo. Like all top drivers, Mikkelsen chose a so-called cross-over configuration for the Saint-Geniez/Thoard stage: one slick and one studded tyre on front and rear axle respectively. “The handling is a bit strange,” Mikkelsen played things down. “But it’s ok on the dry tarmac and the studs give me the necessary safety on the icy parts.”

Mikkelsen and new co-driver Torstein Eriksen started into the Saturday leg as surprising WRC2 leaders. The reason: The provisional overnight leader Stéphane Lefebvre was handed a 30 minutes penalty by the stewards for his route note crew taking “unacceptable risks” while leaving a stage. Mikkelsen/Eriksen made the best of it and defended the WRC2 lead until the leg’s finish on Saturday evening. Despite having to change a punctured wheel during the day’s last stage, the Norwegian ŠKODA FABIA Rally2 evo crew enjoys a 22.4 seconds lead going into the final leg on Sunday.

Mikkelsen’s teammates at Toksport WRT, Marco Bulacia from Bolivia and Argentine co-driver Marcelo Der Ohannesian, were not as lucky. They had to retire from WRC2 third overall with a technical issue (stage 12). In contrast, ŠKODA FABIA Rally2 evo drivers Nikolay Gryazin and Chris Ingram are back in the WRC2 points hunt. Recovering from problems during the opening leg on Thursday, Gryazin and co-driver Konstantin Aleksandrov from Russia climbed to category fifth during Saturday. Briton Ingram and navigator Ross Whittock, the 2019 European Rally Champions, hold WRC2 position seven at the end of the second leg. Italians Mauro Miele/Luca Beltrame (ŠKODA FABIA Rally2 evo) lead the WRC2 Masters class for drivers 50 years and older.

Rallye Monte-Carlo is completed on Sunday with the final four stages covering 67.26 kilometres. The teams reach the finish in the Principality around 2:30 pm.

Standings Rallye Monte-Carlo after Leg 2 (WRC2)

1. Mikkelsen/Eriksen (NOR/NOR), ŠKODA FABIA Rally2 evo, 2:29:20.3 hrs.
2. Cais/Těšínský (CZE/CZE), Ford Fiesta Rally2, +22.4 sec.
3. Munster/Louka (LUX/BEL), Hyundai i20 N Rally2, +1:06.9 min.
4. Rossel/Boulloud (FRA/FRA), Citroën C3 Rally2, +1:37.0 min.
5. Gryazin/Aleksandrov (RAF/RAF), ŠKODA FABIA Rally2 evo, +1:44.3 min.
6. Johnston/Kihurani (USA/USA), Citroën C3 Rally2, +2:01.7 min.

Number of the day: 4
In contrast to past years, the stages of the 2022 Rallye Monte-Carlo so far consisted mostly of dry tarmac. As a consequence, demand for studded tyres is very low. Saturday saw the first opportunity, the competitors put other rubber than slicks on the cars. Like their Toksport WRT teammates, WRC2 leaders Andreas Mikkelsen and co-driver Torstein Eriksen over the day carried four studded tyres in the back of their ŠKODA FABIA Rally2 evo: two in the morning and two new ones in the afternoon for the twice run Saint-Geniez/Thoard stage.