Sun 17 Jul 2022

WRC2 win relights Mikkelsen's title hopes

Andreas Mikkelsen got his WRC2 title defence back on track with victory at Rally Estonia on Sunday after a thrilling battle with Teemu Suninen.

Mikkelsen and Hyundai i20 N Rally2 rival Suninen traded blows throughout the four-day fixture and there were just tenths of seconds between the pair on a number of the superfast gravel stages. 

The Norwegian led from Friday afternoon and stretched his advantage into double figures on the day’s rain-affected final test. That gap remained virtually unchanged despite a spin on Saturday, but when downpours hit Sunday’s penultimate test, it was Suninen’s time to shine. 

He pulled 6.3sec from the Škoda Fabia Rally2 driver with a gutsy drive in the muddy conditions and reduced the deficit to 3.2sec, teeing up a Wolf Power Stage thriller. 

Sadly, that thriller never materialised, with Suninen’s car dropping onto two cylinders part-way through the finale. Mikkelsen emerged 25.3sec clear to clinch victory as well as finishing eighth overall. 

It was an important result for the reigning champion after two back-to-back retirements in Portugal and Italy and he moved back into the championship lead. 

“I just tried to go as fast as I could,” said Mikkelsen, who was unaware of Suninen’s problems until he had finished the final stage. 

“There was a lot of water in the lines and I had a lot of aquaplaning. Normally it's the opposite way around and we start last on the road, so it was very difficult. I am really happy to take this win," he added.

Marco Bulacia’s podium hopes disintegrated when the Bolivian rolled into retirement on SS23. His demise promoted the chasing pack up a position and handed third to Toksport Škoda team-mate Emil Lindholm. The Finn ended 1min 37.7sec behind Suninen and also claimed victory in WRC2 Junior.

M-Sport Ford youngster Jari Huttunen was a further 1min 24.0sec back in fourth overall. The event marked his final start in a Fiesta Rally2 before he drives a top-flight Puma for the British squad at his home event next month. 

In fifth overall was Fabia man Kajetan Kajetanowicz, who dropped behind Mikkelsen in the championship standings. He was over five minutes adrift of the lead and ended just 22.3sec in front of Emilio Fernández’s similar car. 

Also driving a Fabia was Italian Mauro Miele, who took victory in the WRC2 Masters class.

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