Volkswagen motorsport boss Jost Capito has heaped praise on Andreas Mikkelsen for his second place at Rally Sweden and says he will be allowed to fight for more podiums this year.
The Sweden result was a career best for the 24-year-old Norwegian, who joined Volkswagen’s Motorsport II team on a long-term development programme in 2013 and was yet to climb a WRC podium.
After taking the early lead in Sweden with fastest time on the Karlstad Super Special, Mikkelsen soon found himself locked in a duel for the lead with team-mate Jari-Matti Latvala and began the final day just 3.6sec behind. A spin on SS18 cost him his chance of victory, and turned his focus instead on defending his position from a hard-charging Mads Ostberg.
“What’s very impressive is that this is not a result which was given to him by failure or mistakes of others, he was fighting from the beginning – setting the fastest time in the first stage – and then he was on the top all of the weekend,” said Capito. “That was much more than we have thought and we have expected a lot of him this weekend.”
Capito believes that with 12 rallies under his belt, Mikkelsen is now ready to move on to the next stage in his development.
“Last year was really the learning year for Andreas," explained Capito. "Sebastien [Ogier] had 10,000 kilometres of testing in 2012 for 2013, so he was by far in the best position and then Jari-Matti had quite a lot of test when he joined, but Andreas had the minimum test and – you know – there are not a lot of test days allowed each year.
“He had his first rally starting in the middle of the season and he had much less experience. He did a fantastic job learning last year and this year we said that where he is confident and he has done a couple of times then he can fight for the podium. Sweden was the first of these and I think he has done a fantastic job, not just fighting for the podium, but also for the victory,” he added.