WOLFSBURG: A ferry that waits for nobody, breath-taking fjord scenery in Norway and a unique race. That is what you get when Aksel Lund Svindal – Norway’s downhill gold medallist – meets compatriot and Volkswagen rally driver Andreas Mikkelsen.
The result was a wonderfully wild preparation for round eight of the FIA World Rally Championship (WRC) – the Rally Finland, which gets underway on Thursday – and provided some captivating videos and photos.
Svindal and Mikkelsen were embroiled in a spectacular head-to-head sprint on the world-famous Lyseveien road in the southwest of Norway, which features 27 hairpins spread over 29 kilometres.
The two Norwegian sportsmen agreed to an unusual competition, before catching the ferry home together: Mikkelsen, at the wheel of his 318-hp Polo R WRC, would race Svindal on his skis – the latter flat-out off-piste, while Mikkelsen had to wind his way between massive snowbanks, some of which towered up to eight metres in height. All the time, both racers were up against the clock too.
“The fjord, the steep mountainsides, the high snowbanks, the winding road – driving here is a dream,” said a beaming Andreas Mikkelsen. The highlight of the action: as Mikkelsen tore down the hillside, Svindal produced a breath-taking jump across the road, whilst the Volkswagen Polo R WRC hurtled under him at over 100kph.
“To pull that off, I had to plan the speed and timing of the jump perfectly,” explained Svindal. With insufficient snow to ski on further down the slope, Mikkelsen took Svindal on board the WRC Polo as a co-driver for the final few kilometres.
According to Mikkelsen, Svindal was an impressive co-driver. “Aksel immediately grasped what it was all about, and noticed important details, such as when the car lost grip for a hundredth of a second,” said the 26-year-old, who skied for the Norwegian youth team before turning to rallying.
Svindal was also thrilled with his unique taxi ride: “A priceless experience! I really hope I get the chance to do that again some time,” said the 32-year-old car enthusiast. “I have to confess to being a little bit jealous of Andreas for driving in rallies.“ When asked whether Svindal could be his next co-driver in the World Rally Championship, Mikkelsen answered with a broad grin: “I would love to have Aksel as my co-driver. But he would have to lose a bit of muscle mass first.”