Sat 22 Jan 2022

WRC2: Mikkelsen set for Monte double despite late drama

Andreas Mikkelsen is on course to repeat his 2021 win at Rallye Monte-Carlo after taking the WRC2 lead on a frantic Saturday.

After trailing Stéphane Lefebvre on Friday evening, the Norwegian was gifted a surprise lead after his Citroën C3 Rally2 rival received a 30min penalty for a team safety breach before crashing out on Saturday’s second stage.

Mikkelsen was never headed following Lefebvre’s demise and held a comfortable advantage over nearest challenger Yohan Rossel for most of the day, but his victory hopes were thrown in jeopardy in the final Saint-Geniez / Thoard blast. 

Faced with low grip and dirty roads, the Škoda Fabia Rally2 star had to stop mid-stage to change a damaged wheel. He and co-driver Torstein Eriksen completed a speedy swap and only dropped 1min 39sec. 

However, Mikkelsen was unaware Rossel had gone off the road earlier in the stage. The Frenchman dropped around three minutes stuck in a ditch, enabling Mikkelsen’s lead to stay intact. 

At close of play, Mikkelsen held a 22.4sec advantage over M-Sport Ford Fiesta Rally2 pilot Erik Cais, who was the best-placed WRC2 Junior driver. Rossel slipped back to fourth and was 1min 37.0sec adrift of the lead. 

"There was so much dirt being pulled into the road. I didn't feel that we hit anything, but the front right tyre started to go down,” explained the lucky leader. 

“It was 5km from the finish so we tried to carry on, but then it went down to the rim. It's a long rally and anything can still happen,” he added. 

Grégoire Munster benefited from Rossel’s misfortune to end 44.5sec behind Cais in third in a Hyundai i20 N Rally2, whilst Nikolay Gryazin rounded off the top five. The Fabia man finished 7.3sec down on Rossel, with Sean Johnston 17.4sec behind in another C3.

Marco Bulacia joined Lefebvre on the retirements list when his Fabia began putting out grey smoke on the penultimate test of the day. He had been running within the top three beforehand. 

• Full coverage from Rallye Monte-Carlo is available on WRC+ All Live here, including every stage broadcast as it happens as well as key interviews, features and expert analysis from the service park.

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