Volkswagen’s Andreas Mikkelsen will adopt an “all or nothing” approach as he bids to wrestle runners-up spot in the 2016 WRC drivers’ championship away from Thierry Neuville at Kennards Hire Rally Australia (17-20 November).
Both drivers arrived at last weekend’s Dayinsure Wales Rally GB locked on the same number of points in the race to finish second to world champion Sébastien Ogier in the final WRC standings.
But the fierce battle that was predicted failed to materialise. Mikkelsen’s Volkswagen Polo R was struck down by a driveshaft failure on the first morning in Wales and that meant he could only finish in a lowly 12th position.
Neuville meanwhile, took a 14-point advantage on his rival in their points race as he finished third in his Hyundai i20.
Mikkelsen did take some comfort from the fact that he scored two points on the Rally GB-ending Power Stage, but he knows he has to aim for a maximum points finish in Australia if he’s going to beat Neuville to second spot.
“We still have a chance to get second in the drivers’ championship, but that means we have to win in Australia. It will be all or nothing when we go Down Under,” the 73rd PZM Rally Poland winner said. “We can go to Australia and push for the win as the championships are already secured. That’s a pretty cool target.”
Hyundai duo Hayden Paddon and Dani Sordo also have a mathematical chance of taking second in the final points standings, but Paddon trails Neuville by 17 points heading to Australia, while Sordo is 24 points behind.
Neuville and co-driver Nicholas Gilsoul are aware of the threat that Mikkelsen is likely to pose in Australia – and the disadvantage they’re likely to face as they run second on the fast gravel stages.
Gilsoul said: “For sure, it’s very good to be second in the championship, but it’s a bad gift because we’ll be second on the road and that means a lot of road cleaning in Australia. But that’s part of the game and we’re happy to fight for it.”