Markkula (pictured left) has fractured his seventh vertebrae and partially fractured his eighth vertebrae. The injuries happened during Rally Finland earlier this month and Volkswagen Motorsport made the decision to withdraw the duo this morning.
Markkula complained of back problems in Finland, but the pain eased following the event. However, the pain returned during Monday’s opening day of recce and the Finn underwent an MRI scan which revealed the extent of the injuries.
“I suffered severe back pains on the Sunday of Rally Finland,” explained Markkula. “We assumed it was muscular tension. The pain eased off after the rally, just as the doctors had said it would.
“However, it has returned over the past few days and on Tuesday evening I went for a more accurate MRI scan and it was then that we determined I had fractured the two vertebrae.
“Nobody had considered that possibility, and it was obviously a shock because it meant we would have to withdraw from the rally at the last minute. We are really disappointed. I also feel sorry for the team, for whom we wanted to get a good result at our home rally,” he added.
Volkswagen Motorsport Director Jost Capito said it was too near the start to consider a replacement co-driver for Mikkelsen.
“It would have been too risky to send Andreas out with a co-driver, alongside whom he has not driven a single metre prior to the rally and who did not take part in the recce. Andreas has changed his style of pace notes this season, and Mikko is the only co-driver familiar with them,” he explained.
“Safety comes first, particularly when it comes to Mikko’s health. The fractured vertebrae were not easy to diagnose, which is why we took our time to ensure that we made the right decision,” added Capito.