Andy's on fire as he takes first win

FLAMING heck! It looks like Andreas Mikkelsen has gone for a proper burn-up as he heads for victory in the Azores Rally.

But the flames that seemed to be shooting from his Skoda Fabia were actually dramatic pyrotechnics supplied by the organisers as each car leaped over this high-speed jump.

Honorary Brit Andy Mick, the reigning Intercontinental Rally Challenge champ, took up where he left off at the end of 2011 by taking the win for The Sun's motorsport partners Skoda UK.

But while he proved too hot for his rivals on the IRC's first 2012 round, his triumph left three of the team's technicians frozen stiff.

Yari Mischinelli, Fabrizio Borra and Danilo Anzoino foolishly promised Mikkelsen they would leap into the North Atlantic Ocean surrounding the Azores islands if he won.

They jumped in wearing their overalls – and soon discovered the Atlantic in February is as cold as a polar bear's ice cream!

Mikkelsen, who became the IRC's youngest champion last year, led the rally from start to finish on narrow and slippery gravel roads.

But he had to fight off a constant challenge from fellow Skoda ace Juho Hanninen and only won by 25.1 seconds after 14 special stages.

Hanninen would have been closer but for a time-consuming spin on the event's signature Sete Cidades stage, which runs around the rim of an extinct volcano.

Bryan Bouffier came home third as the best-placed Peugeot star.

Another Pug driver, local hero Bruno Magalhaes, rolled out of fourth place amid heavy rain.

Delighted Mikkelsen was also awarded the prestigious Colin McRae Flat Out Trophy, named after the British rallying great, thanks to his ten fastest stage times.

He said: "It was a perfect start to the season for Skoda UK. It couldn't be better.

"We had a great fight with Juho right to the bitter end. We pushed hard all the way to the finish and I'm so happy for myself, my co-driver Ola Floene and the whole team."

Source: The Sun