Arctic Rally Finland was a slight hiccup in Andreas Mikkelsen’s pre-season plan of dominating every round of the World Rally Championship’s Rally2 (R5) tier. The Norwegian was left ruing the handling of his Skoda Fabia through Arctic’s long snow-covered corners.
Despite his car control grievance Mikkelsen managed to secure second in WRC 2 and bagged maximum Power Stage points on Sunday to aid his and Toksport’s championship aims.
But a 47-second gap to leading WRC 2 runner, Esapekka Lappi, left Mikkelsen questioning where it went wrong.
“I like competition,” said Mikkelsen, “but this weekend I couldn’t really match the speed of Esapekka. Second-best was all I could do.
“It looks like we have some work to do to improve the car’s setup on loose surface events.”
Arctic Rally Finland was Lappi’s first event since opting out of a top-line WRC return in favour of saving investment for a 2022 return. Last year’s M-Sport driver was in peerless form winning all but two stages in his Volkswagen Polo R5.
After losing over 16 seconds to Lappi on Friday’s opening two stages, Mikkelsen went on an all-out attack on Saturday’s first stage, Mustalampi.
Mikkelsen’s Arctic Rally Vlog gave an insight into the situation during his debrief with the Toksport team.
“I think we have also seen that we have strong competition so I think we have a lot of work to do in the nearest future to improve.
“Okay, yesterday [Saturday] afternoon I start to relax a little bit because I was too far [behind Lappi] anyway.
“But the first stage yesterday morning, I’m not sure I could do that again, and he [Lappi] was still several seconds faster.”
Arctic’s mixture of high- and low-speed snow stages caused problems for several WRC crews. As Mikkelsen explains, he was struggling with mid-corner understeer which disrupted his momentum.
“If you are going through a long corner and it tightens, normally you just want to use the steering wheel – the corner tightens so you steer more.
“But here this is difficult so I have to pull the handbrake instead.
“We have to find a solution because you are breaking all the traction when you use the handbrake. You kill the tyres, it is just a bad circle, and it’s not really efficient.
“What I am really missing is reactivity from the front around the corner.
“If the corner tightens a bit, I want to steer more. If I want to make a small correction, I want to still do it throughout the corner.
“Now, I have to take the corner three times because I am pulling the handbrake.”
Rally Croatia is next up for Mikkelsen and the Toksport Skoda. The asphalt stages around Zagreb and Karlovac will provide a completely different challenge for the WRC 2 outfit when they arrive at the new event in April.
Photos by Jaanus Ree / Red Bull Content Pool