Not only will the event mark the Norwegian’s competitive debut in the country - actually, it’s his first time on the continent full stop - but also it will be his first event alongside stand-in co-driver Paul Nagle.
Nagle, from Ireland, has taken over the co-driver’s seat while Mikkelsen’s usual navigator, Mikko Markkula, recuperates from a back injury.
Here’s what Nagle had to say about his preparations and the challenge ahead:
Q: You tested with Volkswagen last week and took your place next to Andreas in the Polo R WRC for the first time. How was it?
PN: “The tests were a great experience. Everything was new to me: the team, the car, the driver. However, I was very well received and the two test days really went very well. The car is absolutely fantastic and the team is working very hard. They scrutinise every detail as they strive to improve.
“Andreas is an outstanding driver, and this is a fantastic opportunity for me to compete as a co-driver for Volkswagen. Volkswagen is an extraordinary team. It is an absolute pleasure to work with this crew. Everyone knows exactly what they are doing and, as a newcomer, you get as much support as physically possible.”
Q: As it stands, you will only be lining up alongside Andreas this once at the Rally Australia. Do you feel any pressure ahead of this one-off appearance?
PN: “There will be a certain degree of pressure, and I will definitely be a little bit nervous. However, this is my job and I am looking forward to the challenge and working with Andreas. My learning curve will be a steep one. After all, I don’t know the Rally Australia at all and have never been there before. The last time the rally was on the WRC calendar was in 2011, so only a few drivers are familiar with it. As such, everyone is in a similar position coming into the rally. That ought to suit us.”
Q: How well do you know Andreas Mikkelsen and how difficult will it be to adapt to his new system of pace notes?
PN: “We drove against each other in the IRC, in which Andreas won the title in 2011 and 2012. Kris Meeke and I were crowned champions in 2009. Andreas joined the IRC in 2010 when Kris and I were defending our title. We all got to know each other then.
“Last year both Andreas and I lined up in the SWRC, today’s WRC-2. As such, we already know each other well enough to work together. I also adapted to Andreas’ pace notes system quite quickly. There are obviously a few things that are a bit different. However, after a few hours of testing I had already taken them in. We will concentrate particularly hard on them during the recce.”