Loeb to replace Mikkelsen at Hyundai in Portugal

The Korean team announced its decision to bench the Norwegian for the second time in four rallies on Tuesday. Mikkelsen will return to the Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC for the following Rally of Italy.

Team director Andrea Adamo said: “This decision was not taken lightly. We need to move forward as a team and make the most effective use of our versatile crew line-up. Sebastien and Daniel [Elena, co-driver] had a competitive event in Chile and have found a good feeling in the car on gravel.

“We felt their contribution would allow us to increase our points-scoring potential in Portugal. We are trying hard to find a way to get Andreas’s confidence back and we are sure he will approach his next event, Sardinia, in the same way he was able to in Argentina.

“When you have a line-up like ours and look at the results from Chile, it’s necessary to react quickly.”

Despite Chile being Loeb’s gravel debut in an i20 Coupe WRC – and the nine-time world champion’s absence from a full gravel WRC round for more than a year – Mikkelsen only managed to beat him on one stage at the last round.

Loeb finished Chile challenging for second place, ultimately securing third, while Mikkelsen – who looked to have bounced back from a tough start to 2019 with second place in Argentina a fortnight earlier – was 4m39s behind winner Ott Tanak without any mechanical problems aboard his car.

Loeb said: “I had a great feeling with the Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC in Chile, which was shown by our podium finish. I am pleased to have the chance to build some important momentum by taking part in Portugal. This is an unexpected decision, but I am feeling in a positive frame of mind and determined to get another strong result for the team.”

Portugal will be Loeb’s fifth start for Hyundai this season. He is contracted for six, with the final outing expected to be October’s Rally Spain – unless the team can persuade him to do more.

Motorsport.com asked the Frenchman if he could be tempted, he replied: “Do more rounds? No, I don’t do more.”

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