Skoda UK Motorsport driver Andreas Mikkelsen says his priority is to get to the finish of next month's Monte Carlo Rally - an event he will be contesting for the first time
Mikkelsen has sought the advice of his mentor Marcus Gronholm, who won the 2007 Monte Carlo Rally, in his preparation for the IRC opener which starts on January 19.
The Norwegian admitted he expected the Monte, which celebrates its 100th anniversary next year, to be among the toughest events of his career to date.
"It will be all new for me," said Mikkelsen. "It's a very famous event, but it's also the toughest in the Intercontinental Rally Challenge calendar because you have asphalt, snow, ice and gravel - and sometimes all four in the same stage.
"I'e spoken to Marcus [Gronholm] about Monte Carlo, because he has won it and knows the event very well. It's a rally he doesn't really like because it's so unpredictable and quite scary, but his advice has been invaluable in the past and I'm sure it will be so now.
"The challenge for me will be to get around and reach the finish. I don't have a top three or a top five result in mind, I just want to get around the route without making a mistake and see what happens. I think if we can achieve that, then the result will follow and hopefully we can leave Monte Carlo with some points on the table - which is very important at the start of the season."
Starting the season in the same machinery as defending IRC champions Skoda and Juho Hanninen, Mikkelsen is confident he can challenge for victories as soon as he's past the opening round.
"I"m really looking forward to the year ahead," he said. "To be in a top car and with a top team behind me has never happened before, and we have a really good test schedule planned so the amount of driving I will do in 2011 will help me a lot. Every aspect we have everything one hundred percent and I'm sure we can be up there challenging for rally wins. I think it should be a great year."
While January"s Rallye Monte Carlo will be Mikkelsen's next competitive outing, he finished 2010 off in style by winning the Super 2000 class in a Skoda Rally Team Italia Fabia S2000 at the Bologna Rallysprint (December 11-12), which was part of the Bologna Motor Show; defeating Simone Campedelli (Peugeot 207 S2000) in the final.
The result rounded off a hat-trick of class wins for Andreas and Skoda, after he'd won the S-WRC category on Wales Rally GB (November 11-14) and the WRC class (in a Fabia WRC) on the Solberg Extreme MotorShow in Oslo (November 27).
The fifth Intercontinental Rally Challenge was the best yet, and it was Skoda UK driver Andreas Mikkelsen who emerged as champion from a tense five-way shootout at the season finale. Matt Beer reviews the season