Andreas Mikkelsen has secured a two-year deal with Hyundai that keeps him at the team through the 2018 and ’19 World Rally Championships.
Mikkelsen is making his debut for Hyundai at next week’s Rally Catalunya, having made a late-season switch from Citroen.
Topgear.ie understands that was always intended as the precursor to a full-season drive next year, when Mikkelsen and Thierry Neuville are set to be Hyundai’s main line-up with Dani Sordo and Hayden Paddon sharing the third car.
“I am delighted that Hyundai has offered me the chance to return to the WRC with a full-time seat for 2018 and 2019,” said Mikkelsen.
“Even before my first rally with the team, I feel that I have settled in quickly, and it is clear to me that I am joining a world-class team with realistic chances of fighting for both drivers’ and manufacturers’ championships.
“I look forward to helping to achieve these goals and making my own presence felt in the drivers’ title fight.”
Mikkelsen has already tested both Hyundai’s World Rally Car and its R5, and team principal Michel Nandan said he had immediately impressed.
“Andreas is one of those rally drivers who fits in quickly and just gets straight down to business,” said Nandan.
“From the few times he has already been to visit the factory in Alzenau, his determination and professionalism have shone through.
“We are pleased to have him on board in a full-time capacity for two complete seasons.”
Mikkelsen was the only one of Volkswagen’s works drivers unable to secure top-class employment when VW suddenly departed the WRC at the end of 2016.
He temporarily rejoined Skoda – which had taken him to the 2011 and ’12 Intercontinental Rally Challenge titles – at the start of the season and dominated WRC2 in Monte Carlo and Sweden.
Mikkelsen first tested for Hyundai in April, and also had discussions with Toyota, but ended up returning to the World Rally Car ranks with Citroen.
He made three appearances for Citroen as it shuffled its driver line-up in the middle of the season, and achieved only its second podium of 2017 with second in Germany last month.
Mikkelsen replaces Paddon in Hyundai’s line-up for Spain next week, with Sordo then expected to make way for him in Britain and Australia.
This season is the first time Hyundai has been in WRC title contention.
Though the team trails M-Sport by 64 points in the manufacturers’ standings, Neuville is within 17 points of drivers’ championship leader Sebastien Ogier with three rounds to go.