Andreas Mikkelsen will drive for Skoda UK Motorsport in the 2011 Intercontinental Rally Challenge.
Mikkelsen, from Norway, finished seventh in this season’s IRC drivers‘ rankings at the wheel of an M-Sport Ford Fiesta S2000, six points behind outgoing Skoda UK pilot Guy Wilks, who will switch to the rival Peugeot UK operation for 2011.
Aged 21, Mikkelsen is regarded as one of the rallying’s brightest prospects. He underlined his potential by finishing second on RACMSA Rally of Scotland in mid-October before winning the inaugural Love Cyprus Golden Stage Rally last weekend.
"I am very happy to be asked to join the Skoda family and to be given this opportunity from Skoda UK to do the 2011 IRC," said Mikkelsen, who was unveiled as a Skoda UK driver at the White Dove Motor Group dealership in Cardiff, UK, earlier today (Thursday). "It is a fantastic new step in my rally career and to be in a Skoda seat with all the experience from Skoda Motorsport. My goal will be in to win the championship in 2011 no more, no less."
Ola Floene will continue to co-drive Mikkelsen when the 2011 IRC season gets underway with Rallye Monte-Carlo from 18-22 January.
Golden Stage Rally a hit with inaugural winner
The Love Cyprus Golden Stage Rally has been declared a huge success by the driver who claimed the top prize on the inaugural event last Sunday (7 November).
Andreas Mikkelsen defeated runner-up Nasser Al-Attiyah and third-placed Bryan Bouffier in a tense finish on the mixed-surface event, which featured a single 25-kilometre stage run twice. Both runs were shown live on Eurosport and Cypriot channel LumiereTV.
"It was a great idea and I heard back from my friends and family in Norway just how good the live television was," said the 21-year-old, who bagged 40,000 Euros in prize money of the 150,000 Euros that were available. "To have a rally like this is something new and the idea of going flat-out for two stages on full attack is great. I would love to do this again and I hope it happens again in the future."
The inaugural Golden Stage Rally was a joint initiative between IRC promoter Eurosport Events and the Cyprus Automobile Association.
Other significant award winners on the event were Roman Kresta and Karl Kruuda, who triumphed in Category B and C respectively and both earned 10,000 Euros in prize money for their efforts. They received their prizes at the annual IRC Awards Ceremony in Limassol last Sunday night.
Subaru Individual Award goes to Almari
Misfer Almari has won the final Subaru Individual Award for 2010 following his run to ninth overall on the FxPro Cyprus Rally, which was based in Limassol from 4-6 November.
The Qatari, who was co-driven by Italian Nicola Arena, produced a mature performance to complete the mixed-surface event.
Eurosport’s cameras were rolling when Almari spun into a brick wall on the opening day of the combined Intercontinental Rally Challenge and Middle East Rally Championship qualifier. The impact left his Impreza with rear-end cosmetic damage but didn’t affect the car’s handling.
"It was important for me to get to the finish because I needed points for the Middle East championship and I’m pleased to have achieved that aim," said Almari.
The Subaru Individual Award was presented on rounds of this year’s IRC to the highest-placed Subaru finisher and demonstrated the support that Subaru extended to its customer drivers in the IRC in 2010.
Olivier Burri (Monte Carlo), Juan San Martin (Curitiba), Gabriel Pozzo (Argentina), Jose Barrios (Canary Islands), Teemu Arminen (Sardinia), Florian Gonon (Ypres), Sergio Silva (Azores), Pedro Meireles (Madeira) and Vojtech Stajf (Zlin) were the other Subaru Individual Award winners this season. Pozzo was the highest-placed Impreza driver in the final IRC standings in joint 17th place.
Thomas wants future IRC outings
Cypriot star Nicos Thomas has revealed his desire to contest more rounds of the Intercontinental Rally Challenge in 2011.
The 23-year-old finished an impressive fifth overall on last weekend’s FxPro Cyprus Rally in his Munaretto-prepared Peugeot 207 Super 2000. He repeated the feat on the Love Cyprus Golden Stage Rally, which took place the day after the IRC finale.
"I am very satisfied with my performance because I said before the start I wanted to be in the top five and I managed this," said Thomas, whose drive was made possible through the close collaboration between IRC promoter Eurosport Events and Cyprus Rally organiser Cyprus Automobile Association.
"It is all about the budget but next year I would like to do more rallies in the IRC because I have enjoyed the experience and feel I can improve."
Despite limited knowledge of his Peugeot, Thomas drove without error on both mixed-surface events, which were held in baking hot sunshine on shown live on television.
Nagle will miss Monte-Carlo excitement
Paul Nagle, who co-drove Kris Meeke to Intercontinental Rally Challenge title glory in 2009, has revealed his disappointment at not being able to contest the centenary edition of Rallye Monte-Carlo next January.
Meeke and Nagle have completed their two-year stint in the IRC with Peugeot UK and the legendary event is not on their schedule for 2011.
Despite crashing out of the rally in 2009 and again earlier this season, Nagle said he relished taking part on the challenging asphalt event, which was subject to wintry weather conditions.
"It’s a great with so much drama and I’ll really miss not being able to take part," said Irishman Nagle, who partnered Meeke to five victories in the IRC.
Rallye Monte-Carlo runs from 18-22 January, 2011. More information is available at www.acm.mc.