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Sun 23 Jan 2022

WRC2: Mikkelsen's title defence off to flying start

Andreas Mikkelsen made a dream start to his WRC2 title defence by taking victory at Rallye Monte-Carlo on Sunday.

The Norwegian returned to the WRC’s premier support category for a second year in a bid to earn a top-tier Rally1 seat with a manufacturer team. He moved into the lead on Saturday morning when Stéphane Lefebvre crashed his Citroën C3 Rally2.

Although Mikkelsen was never headed following Lefebvre’s spectacular exit, his rally very nearly unravelled at Saint-Geniez / Thoard on Saturday evening when he punctured the front right tyre on his Škoda Fabia Rally2.

Thanks to a speedy swap by him and debuting co-driver Torstein Eriksen, the pair retained a healthy lead which they carried through Sunday’s final leg. Their winning margin at the finish in Monaco was 55.4sec.

"I couldn't have asked for a better start to the season,” smiled Mikkelsen. “Torstein has done so well from the first stage and I am so happy. There were very tricky conditions still, but we managed it quite well," he added.

Erik Cais was Mikkelsen’s nearest challenger in a Ford Fiesta Rally2. The Czech driver was delighted to grab his second podium in as many WRC rallies. He also took WRC2 Junior honours and finished 1min 12.1sec in front of Toksport driver Nikolay Gryazin.

Gryazin’s third place came at the expense of Hyundai i20 Rally2 driver Grégoire Munster and C3 man Yohan Rossel.

Both drivers punctured in the first pass of Sunday’s Briançonnet / Entrevaux and dropped down the order. Sean Johnston also benefited from their troubles to end a career-best fourth, 57.1sec behind Gryazin in another C3.

A deflated Munster was 32.0sec down on Johnston, whilst Rossel rounded off the leaderboard a hefty 3min 28.3sec back from the leaders in sixth. Despite the puncture, Rossel rescued valuable bonus points by taking the Wolf Power Stage win.

Eric Camilli led briefly but retired his C3 with damaged suspension on Friday. Marco Bulacia also had an early exit when his Fabia’s engine expired after SS12.

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