Andreas Mikkelsen claimed his maiden WRC victory at Spain’s RallyRACC Catalunya - Costa Daurada on Sunday when world champion Sébastien Ogier crashed out of the lead in the final speed test.
In a hugely dramatic finale, Mikkelsen and co-driver Ola Floene finished the last stage and learned they had edged Volkswagen team-mate Jari-Matti Latvala for what should have been second after a fierce final day fight.
Seconds later the Norwegian was informed that Ogier had smashed his similar Polo R into a metal roadside barrier less than 4km from the finish, ripping the rear right wheel from the car.
Mikkelsen was stunned into silence as he realised the significance of his colleague’s error. It was his first WRC win in 64 attempts and kept alive his hopes of pipping Latvala for second in the drivers’ standings at next month’s final round in Britain.
“It was absurd because Ogier never makes mistakes so when they told me I didn’t believe it. It was a big surprise, and although it’s not the way I want to win a rally, we’ve been so close so many times that I feel I really deserve this one,” said 26-year-old Mikkelsen.
Ogier was airlifted to hospital but was passed fit after checks. The 31-year-old Frenchman was seemingly on his way to an eighth victory of the season on the four-day mixed surface event south of Barcelona with a comfortable 50.9sec lead over Mikkelsen.
Mikkelsen and Latvala fought tooth and nail through the final leg and were less than a second apart before Latvala punctured three stages from the end. Mikkelsen then spun in the penultimate test and the duo began the final stage showdown 1.4sec apart.
The eventual winning margin was 3.1sec, with Dani Sordo taking the final podium place at his home event in a Hyundai i20, a further 18.1sec back.
Citroen’s Mads Østberg finished fourth after demoting team-mate Kris Meeke who spun his DS 3. The gap between them was 1.9sec, with New Zealand’s Hayden Paddon completing the top six in another i20.
Thierry Neuville’s hopes of a top six finish ended in the penultimate stage when a transmission problem pitched the Belgian off the road under braking. He limped through the final stage to take eighth behind Martin Prokop’s Ford Fiesta RS. WRC 2 winner Pontus Tidemand and team-mate Jan Kopecký completed the leaderboard.
The final round of the season is the gravel Wales Rally GB which is based in Deeside on 12 - 15 November.
Day 2 Highlights Video (26 min)
SS20: Latvala and Mikkelsen neck and neck
Fight for second goes down to tenths