Former Volkswagen Motorsport star Andreas Mikkelsen heads a high-quality WRC 2 field in Corsica this weekend as he returns to the category for a second appearance of the season.
Mikkelsen finished third in the FIA World Rally Championship last year but lost his full-time seat when the German team pulled out of the series.
He took a convincing WRC 2 win in a guest drive for Skoda Motorsport in the season-opening Rallye Monte-Carlo, and returns for a second start with the Czech squad at the asphalt Che Guevara Energy Drink Tour de Corse (6 - 9 April).
The Norwegian, who finished third overall on the demanding island roads in 2015 and 2016, lies third in the standings.
He will be partnered in Skoda’s two-car Fabia R5 line-up by Jan Kopecký. The Czech is one place behind in the points and comes to Corsica on the back of a dominant win at the opening round of the Czech Championship.
Corsica does not feature on championship leader Pontus Tidemand’s schedule, but there is a big queue of drivers eager to close the gap on the Swede.
Eric Camilli is the only one who can leapfrog Tidemand. He is eight points behind and the rally has special meaning for the Frenchman as his father’s family originate from the start town of Ajaccio.
Camilli will be joined in M-Sport-run Ford Fiesta R5s by Teemu Suninen and native Corsican Pierre-Louis Loubet, who drives the car for the first time in WRC 2. Another strong contender is Bryan Bouffier. The vastly experienced Frenchman is a former works Hyundai driver and an asphalt expert.
Ole Christian Veiby shone at Rally Sweden when he finished third and goes up against stable-mate Mikkelsen for the first time in the same type of car. “To measure up against him will be a good benchmark on where I stand,” said Veiby.
Simone Tempestini, Lukasz Pieniazek, Yohan Rossel and Laurent Pellier all step up from the Junior WRC to make their WRC 2 debuts. Tempestini won both the Junior and WRC 3 titles last season, while Pellier won the Junior category in Corsica.