Andreas Mikkelsen: Being champion won’t add pressure

Andreas Mikkelsen says coming into the 2012 Intercontinental Rally Challenge season as reigning champion will not change his approach or add any pressure to repeat his 2011 feat.

The Norwegian has retained his Skoda UK drive to defend the title he earned with a late-season charge last year.

Sata Rallye Acores Gallery 2011

“I don’t feel under any pressure starting this year’s IRC as champion and I won’t change my mindset entering each rally," Mikkelsen declared. "The competition will once again be strong, so I need to do what I did last year – stay focused, keep calm and do my best behind the steering wheel."

He believes he will start 2012 much stronger than last season's campaign as he is already so familiar with his car and team.

"The continuity within the team will be one of our strong points this year, as we all know what’s expected – and we all work at one hundred percent to support each other to achieve the same goal, which is to win," said Mikkelsen.

This year's IRC opens with Rally Azores, which was a breakthrough event for Mikkelsen last season as he fought for victory with works Skoda driver Juho Hanninen until Skoda requested that they hold position.

"Rally Azores is my favourite rally in the IRC calendar, so to begin my title defence there could not be better," Mikkelsen said. "The scenery is beautiful, the atmosphere on the island is fantastic and I love the nature of the stages. The gravel roads are really tricky in places – sometimes fast and narrow, but always really nice to drive.

"The weather this year could play a big role in the outcome of the results. If it’s wet and slippery with low cloud and poor visibility it will be very good for us, because the tougher the challenge the more we like it."

Source: Max Rally