The first gravel event in the 2011 Intercontinental rally Challenge (IRC) is the Rally Azores between 14th and 16th July 2011 which will take place on the volcanic island of Sao Miguel. The event is the type Andreas Mikkelsen enjoys, which will see him compete in the Skoda Motorsport Fabia S2000.
Sao Miguel is nicknamed "the green island" and located 930 miles west of Portugal and 2400 miles east of North America and features dramatic coastline and high mountains. The average temperature in July is 24°C.
Last year during the event on the island, Andreas met a herd of cows after a blind crest at nearly 100mph and had to drive into a ditch to avoid hitting them.
Skoda Motorsport drivers Juho Hanninen and Jan Kopecky and Skoda Sweden's Patrik Sandell will also compete, in Skoda Fabia S2000s.
Andreas said: "I really enjoy rallying in the Azores because the stages are really nice, especially the volcano stage Sete Cidades, which is a beautiful stage with big drops. The rest of the rally has beautiful landscape too, very green, nice and warm and really challenging for a driver, so I'm looking forward to it.
"It will be interesting to see the level of the drivers on gravel this year after five rallies on asphalt. I feel very comfortable on asphalt, but I always consider myself a little bit more of a gravel driver, so this rally certainly shouldn't put me at a disadvantage. For sure we want to be on the podium at the finish - and that's the aim in the Azores."
The year's Rallye Acores - the correct Portuguese title - contains three legs and 17 stages which total 129.63 miles. Thursday 14th July will see the start of the event with a shakedown between 9.00am and 1.00pm before the official start at 4.00pm. Three stages then follow, one of which is the Grupo Marques super special, before the finish at 19.35.
Leg 2 will begin at 9.30am the following day and totals nine stages, covering 60.26 miles before the finish at 6.50pm.
The third stage, taking place on Saturday 16th July 2011 will start at 9.00am, with five stages which cover 54.2 miles including the Tronqueira test which is 13.63 miles - the longest of the event which is attempted once in the morning and repeated as the final stage in the afternoon. Ponta Delgada will host the finish ceremony at 6.55pm.
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