Although there were celebrations this weekend following Andreas Mikkelsen’s successful Intercontinental Rally Challenge title defence – the first and last time anyone will claim that honour twice – there were some recriminations, too.
Mikkelsen bade a fond farewell to his longtime co-driver Ola Fløene by letting him use his privilege to take the wheel of their Škoda Fabia S2000 for the final stage of their final event together, the Rally Cyprus. Yet while the hugs were forthcoming and Mikkelsen was looking forward to 2013 ‘with Volkswagen… still part of the Škoda family’ his 43-year-old co-driver looked somewhat bereft.
‘It was not my decision,’ said Fløene, when asked whether he was looking forward to retirement after 18 years at the top level, of which six have been alongside the burgeoning talent of Mikkelsen. Pressed to say whether it was his or Mikkelsen’s decision, he said: ‘I don’t want to go, but it is someone else’s decision.’
It puts a slightly bitter aftertaste on the season for his young driver, who stands on the threshold of a drive with Volkswagen’s €100 million superteam after a disastrous start to his international career. Being blessed with good funding, Mikkelsen made his WRC debut in 2007 while still in his teens, but wrecked a lot of cars along the way. He went back to Norway in 2009 before joining the Hankook-funded Opel squad in the IRC, showing far greater maturity and earning his Škoda UK-backed drive for 2011.
To start with it appeared that Mikkelsen was back to his wild ways, crashing out of the Monte Carlo Rally after just a few corners. Nevertheless he buckled down and won the title, repeating the feat this season – achievements which both reflect the confidence shown in him by the man in the co-driver’s seat.
Clearly Fløene is aggrieved by the decision to put a new, as-yet unannounced new man in the right hand seat of Mikkelsen’s Polo WRC next year. Understandably so, it would seem.