Andreas Mikkelsen og Torstein Eriksen kan sikre seg VM-gull i WRC2 i kommende helgs Central European Rally.
Mikkelsen og Eriksen beholdt VM-ledelsen i WRC2 selv om de var hjemmesittere under forrige runde, Rally Chile. Seier til Oliver Solberg og Elliot Edmondson i Chile var ganske perfekt for den norske Skoda-duoen. Gus Greensmith og Yohan Rossel var begge på desperat jakt etter seier, men norsk/svenske Oliver Solberg ville det annerledes. Oliver holdt de to bak seg, og dermed også unna de største poengpottene.
Foran den nye VM-runden, Central Europe Rally som kjøres både i Tsjekkia, Tyskland og Østerrike, topper dermed fortsatt Mikkelsen VM-tabellen med sine 108 poeng på fem løp. Yohan Rossel har 104, men han har tatt poeng i seks løp så langt. Greensmith, også han med seks løp, har 99 poeng. For Torstein Eriksens del er en ny VM-tittel så godt som på plass i lomma. Han har seks tellende løp og 127 poeng etter å ha tatt poeng med Ole Chr Veiby i Rally Sweden også. Arnaud Dunand har 104 poeng. Om det blir gull på Torstein så vil det bli hans tredje på fire år!
Helgens løp har startseremoni og to etapper på torsdag. Starten er i Praha, og hele løpet er altså i grenseområdene sør-vest i Tsjekkia, øst i Tyskland og nord-vest i Østerrike. Etter at de første etappene er unnagjort i Tsjekkia forflytter det seg til Østerrike, der de fleste av lørdagens etapper kjøres mens det meste foregår i Tyskland på søndag. Totalt er det 18 fartsetapper på asfalt på tilsammen 310 km. Løpets base og serviceplass er i Passau i Tyskland.
Det er ventet at løpet kan bli utfordrende på grunn av årstiden som kan være bløt og kald i området, og det kan bli dratt mye skitt ut på asfalten og også høstløv som kan gjøre det glatt mange steder. Andreas og Torstein kjørte test i Østerrike sist helg og skal være godt forberedt.
-Ja vi er i en god posisjon til å sikre tittelen, men dette løpet er nytt for alle og det kan bli vanskelig om det for eksempel blir regn. Veiene kan bli veldig uforutsigbare og det kan være fort gjort å gjøre feil, sier Andreas Mikkelsen som også var verdensmester i WRC2 i 2021.
Central European Rally:
Thrilling semi finale with two Škoda drivers aiming for WRC2 championship
› Already at the twelfth of 13 FIA World Rally Championship rounds, Andreas Mikkelsen (Škoda Fabia RS Rally2) could turn his WRC2 overall lead into his second title
› Toksport WRT teammate Gus Greensmith (Škoda Fabia RS Rally2) needs a top result to keep his slim title hopes alive
› More than two thirds of the crews entered into the 30 strong WRC2 field are relying on the Škoda Fabia
Mladá Boleslav, 25 October 2023 – Penultimate event of the 2023 FIA World Rally Championship, possibly the last round in the fight for the WRC2 championship: The new Central European Rally (26-29 October 2023) could end with Andreas Mikkelsen (Škoda Fabia RS Rally2) celebrating the title in the championship’s main feeder series. Only two drivers can stop the current WRC2 overall leader from Norway: his British Toksport WRT teammate Gus Greensmith and Frenchman Yohan Rossel.
After seven gravel events in a row, the FIA World Rally Championship returns to tarmac: The new Central European Rally features special stages on roads in the Czech Republic, Austria and Germany. Starting in the Czech capital Prague and locating the service park in the Bavarian town of Passau, the penultimate round of the 2023 season is a truly international event. Škoda Motorsport will be present with its customer support team. A customized truck will be on site carrying spare parts. As well, technicians from Škoda Motorsport will be at hand to support the customer teams with their comprehensive knowledge.
The stage is set for possibly the finale of the title fight in the WRC2 category. All three contenders will be present: overall leader Andreas Mikkelsen (Škoda Fabia RS Rally2, 108 points) from Norway, second placed Frenchman Yohan Rossel (Citroën C3 Rally2, 104 points) and Briton Gus Greensmith (Škoda Fabia RS Rally2, 99 points). Only nine points separate the trio, but that’s only half the picture. According to the WRC2 rules, drivers can score at maximum seven events with only the six best results counting.
Current third-placed Gus Greensmith, who together with Swedish co-driver Jonas Andersson has won WRC2 on two occasions so far (Portugal, Mexico), will compete already his seventh event. As he has one retirement with 0 points to deduct, his Central European Rally result will count in any case. Thus, the Toksport WRT driver can reach not more than 127 points in total.
Yohan Rossel has collected his points also with six events so far, with a fourth place (12 points) as worst result. The WRC2 mathematics mean: Even with a category victory at the Central European Rally, the Frenchman’s total points limit is 120.
Andreas Mikkelsen on the other hand, who will be co-driven again by fellow Norwegian Torstein Eriksen, has bagged his 108 points at five rallies so far. A category victory, his fourth of the season, would bring him to at least 133 points, securing the WRC2 title for sure. Basically all other positions would crown Mikkelsen champion only, if he finishes ahead of Greensmith and Rossel. Whatever Mikkelsen’s result will be coming weekend, if necessary, the WRC2 champion of 2021 could score again at the season-ending Rally Japan (16-19 November 2023) – where Greensmith and Rossel would have to watch from the sidelines.
“Yes, I am in a good position for the title,” says Mikkelsen ahead of his first tarmac rally of the 2023 season. “But the Central European Rally is new for everybody. Especially when it rains, the roads will be unpredictably slippery and dirty in places. It would be very easy to do a mistake, which could ruin the rally.” Greensmith finished WRC2 second at the recent Rally Chile, but is not too enthusiastic about this result. “With Andreas absent, I should have won to close the gap to him. Now it’s all about to get maximum points at the Central European Rally,” comments the Briton.
Despite scoring no points in Chile, Kajetan Kajetanowicz (Škoda Fabia RS Rally2) is in a good position to win the title in the WRC2 Challenger sub-category. The driver from Poland is trailing current leader Sami Pajari (Škoda Fabia RS Rally2) by 25 points. But the Finn has already done seven rallies and thus finished his season, while the Central European Rally will only be Kajetanowicz’ sixth event. The same counts for Nikolay Gryazin (Škoda Fabia RS Rally2), who currently ranks third in WRC2 Challengers with 32 points down on leader Pajari.
Similar the situation in the WRC Masters Cup, which is reserved for drivers older than 50 years and where the title will go to one of four Škoda drivers. Alexander Villanueva leads Germany’s Armin Kremer, Johannes Keferböck from Austria and fellow Spaniard Miguel Díaz Aboitiz. Former FIA European Rally Champion Kremer, on the occasion of their home event co-driven by daughter Ella, Keferböck and Díaz Aboitiz have still two events to collect points – but only two wins would bring one of them the title. Villanueva on the other hand does not compete at the Central European Rally, but theoretically could score again at Rally Japan.
The title race in the WRC2 Teams’ classification will be decided between the three legally independent teams of Toksport WRT, who all compete with Škoda.
The first ever Central European Rally offers 18 special stages covering a total of 310.01 kilometres. The season’s penultimate round starts on Thursday (26 October) at 1h00 pm local time in Prague. The Czech capital’s streets will also host the first short super special, before the crews will face another show stage in Klatovy on their way to the service park in Passau/Germany. The Friday leg offers six stages in the Czech Republic. Saturday and Sunday add ten more stages additionally visiting Austria and Germany, before crews are back in Passau for the finish on Sunday (29 October) at 2h30 pm.
Škoda Auto supports the event by providing the race direction with one of the so-called 0-cars. Newly crowned German Rally Champion Marijan Griebel drives a Škoda Fabia RS Rally2 at speed over the stages just ahead of the competitors. His task is to perform last minute checks concerning safety and to make the spectators aware of the stage going live. On this occasion, team Pole Promotion has given Griebel’s Škoda Fabia RS Rally2 a special livery. Stickers honour the championships won by Škoda customer teams in the three countries the Central European Rally is crossing: 19 in the Czech Republic, ten in Germany and nine in Austria.
Did you know, that…
…the Central European Rally features stages in three countries – Czech Republic, Austria, Germany –, which is ultra-rare for the FIA World Rally Championship?
…the show stage in Klatovy in the past was not only a fixture of the Czech Rally Championship, but in the 1990s as well a part of the German Rally Championship?
…that 15 Škoda Fabia RS Rally2 are entered into the event, a record number for the maiden WRC season of the Czech brand’s latest generation rally car?
Standings WRC2/Drivers (after eleven rounds)
1 Andreas Mikkelsen (NOR), Škoda, 108 points (from 5 rallies)
2 Yohan Rossel (FRA), Citroën, 104 points (from 6 rallies)
3 Gus Greensmith (GBR), Škoda, 99 points (from 6 rallies)
4 Oliver Solberg (SWE), Škoda, 91 points (from 7 rallies)
5 Sami Pajari (FIN), Škoda, 86 points (from 7 rallies)
Standings WRC2/Teams (after eleven rounds)
1 Toksport WRT3 (Škoda), 148 points (from 5 rallies)
2 Toksport WRT2 (Škoda), 148 points (from 5 rallies)
3 M-Sport Ford World Rally Team, 146 points (from 7 rallies)
4 Toksport WRT (Škoda), 135 points (from 4 rallies)
2023 FIA World Rally Championship
Rallye Monte-Carlo 19-22 January
Rally Sweden 9-12 February
Guanajuato Rally México 16-19 March
Croatia Rally 20-23 April
Rally de Portugal 11-14 May
Rally Italia Sardegna 1-4 June
Safari Rally Kenya 22-25 June
Rally Estonia 20-23 July
Rally Finland 3-6 August
Acropolis Rally Greece 7-10 September
Rally Chile 28 September-1 October
Central European Rally (CZE/AUT/DEU) 26-29 October
Rally Japan 16-19 November