Sun 04 Jun 2023

Fourmaux falters, handing Mikkelsen surprise WRC2 victory

Andreas Mikkelsen celebrated the unlikeliest of WRC2 victories on Sunday afternoon at Rally Italia Sardegna when rally leader Adrien Fourmaux slid off the road 1.8km into the weekend’s final stage, denying the Frenchman his maiden WRC2 win.

Starting the 7.79km Wolf Power Stage 31sec down on Fourmaux, Mikkelsen looked destined to steer his Škoda Fabia to second overall – his best-ever WRC2 result on Sardinia after retiring there the previous two seasons.

However, as the Norwegian approached the flying finish, news began filtering through that Fourmaux had slid off the road in his Ford Fiesta Rally2, succumbing to the changeable weather and slippery conditions underfoot. Despite the best efforts of onlookers, they were not able to get the Fiesta back on the road, forcing Fourmaux’s retirement.

“Wow,” was Mikkelsen’s first response when learning of his rival’s demise. "We made the best of the situation. Not a nice end for Adrien, he has done a fantastic weekend and the whole M-Sport team has so many positives to take out of here.

“If it's a win for us then we are of course very happy."

Not only did the Norwegian take out WRC2 but he also managed to finish an impressive fifth place overall as a number of WRC drivers succumbed to the challenging weather conditions. Sardinia marked just the second start this season for the 2022 WRC2 world champion, following on from his third place finish last month at Vodafone Rally de Portugal. 

A broken wheel ruled Teemu Suninen out of victory contention in Friday’s opening leg but the Hyundai i20 N driver recovered valiantly to end 2min 15sec back from the lead, placing second in the category, marking his maiden podium this season.

Over one minute behind him in third place was Kajetan Kajetanowicz. The Pole kept Citroën C3 rival Yohan Rossel at bay despite being hindered by an issue with his Škoda’s pop-off valve and also won the WRC2 Challenger class.

Rossel retained the championship lead after Oliver Solberg - who trailed him by a single point before the rally - retired on both Friday and Saturday with suspension damage. Solberg’s Toksport team-mate Emil Lindholm was ruled out by a similar failure and retired from fourth position during service on Saturday evening.

Austria’s Johannes Keferböck took the WRC Masters Cup honours in a Škoda Fabia Rally2 Evo. He headed defending champion Mauro Miele by several minutes at the finish.

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