Former Volkswagen driver Andreas Mikkelsen will take the wheel of a Skoda Fabia R5 at next month's Rallye Monte-Carlo, having accepted that he won't be able to fight for the drivers' championship next season.
Like his former team-mates Sébastien Ogier and Jari-Matti Latvala, Mikkelsen was left without a manufacturer drive in 2017 after Volkswagen pulled the plug on its WRC programme last month.
But while Latvala and Ogier have secured seats at Toyota and M-Sport, the 27-year-old Norwegian hasn't been able to put together a top-level deal.
Four weeks after winning this season's final round in Australia, Mikkelsen revealed he would be putting his title ambitions on hold in 2017 while he worked on a comeback in 2018.
"The consequence of Volkswagen withdrawing from the championship is that all the WRC seats were already taken. Therefore, my 2017 season will be all about keeping my rally-overall warm and finding a seat in the right team to be able to fight for the WRC champion title in 2018," he said.
"We don't know what the upcoming season will bring yet. But of course I hope to get to drive as much as possible and we are working on a plan to do selected rallies."
The one-off deal for Rallye Monte-Carlo puts Mikkelsen and co-driver Anders Jæger [below] in Skoda's three-car WRC2 team along with Pontus Tidemand/Jonas Andersson and Jan Kopecký/Pavel Dresler.
"It feels a bit like coming home," Mikkelsen reflected. "It was Skoda that gave me a chance in the beginning and together we got to celebrate two champion titles in the IRC championship, which gave me the opportunity to drive for Volkswagen Motorsport. Now that the situation is like it is, I think it will be fun to compete for Skoda again. We have many good memories."
Mikkelsen's manager, Erik Veiby, acknowledged that Volkswagen's late decision had forced a complete re-think.
"To be here without a seat for Andreas is a little surreal. We are talking about the driver who beat the world champion at the last event in Australia and who has been third in the championship for three years in a row," Veiby said.
"Looking at 2016, only Sebastien Ogier, Kris Meeke and Andreas won two or more WRC rounds. Our goal was for Andreas to take the world champion title in 2017. We still believe that he will be world champion, but now we have to postpone those plans until 2018."