Although the defending IRC champion holds a six-point advantage heading to the gravel event, he will arrive in the republic on the back of his first non-score in the series since the Canon Mecsek Rally last September.
Mikkelsen, who crashed out of the recent Geko Ypres Rally, won in San Marino last season during his stint in the Italian Gravel Trophy. However, with the route for this year’s rally significantly altered, the ŠKODA UK Motorsport driver won’t necessarily have an advantage.
Giandomenico Basso is the man most likely to push Mikkelsen for top honours in the same M-Sport Ford Fiesta RRC he took to a podium finish on Targa Florio-Rally Internazionale Di Sicilia. The Italian has previous San Marino knowledge to call on and is fast on gravel as he is on asphalt.
Sepp Wiegand returns to action after missing the recent trip to Ypres through illness. The ŠKODA Auto Deutschland youngster has impressed during his maiden IRC campaign, scoring points on his five appearances so far.
Rapid Swede Patrik Flodin will form part of the two-strong Petter Solberg Engineering line-up in San Marino and will joined by Finn Kristian Sohlberg in a second M-Sport Ford Fiesta S2000. It will be Sohlberg’s first IRC appearance and his first on an international rally for several years.
Frenchman Germain Bonnefis will make his IRC debut in San Marino after being handed a dream opportunity by Peugeot Sport. Bonnefis is competing in the French Gravel championship in a 207 Super 2000 as his prize for winning Peugeot’s Volant 207 one-make series last season. His entry in San Marino is a bonus following several strong performances in his homeland.
Other contenders include Skydive Dubai Rally Team’s Rashid Al-Ketbi and Janós Puskádi, who will be back behind the wheel of his Eurosol Racing ŠKODA Fabia having spent the Ypes Rally running it for fellow Hungarian László Vizin.
IRC Production Cup
Inaugural IRC Production Cup winner Toshi Arai will make his second start of 2012 on a surface he relishes: gravel. The Japanese will head the Subaru challenge in his Impreza R4 STI and will be one of the favourites for victory along with Tommi Mäkinen Racing team-mate Jarkko Nikara and Romanian Marco Tempestini, a regular frontrunner this year.
IRC 2WD Cup
Davide Catania is back in the IRC 2WD Cup for the first time since SATA Rallye Açores in February. As a gravel specialist, Catania will be out to impress but will have to overcome the challenge of joint title leaders Harry Hunt and Martin Kangur. Honda Civic driver Kangur is on a high after winning in Ypres and has more experience of gravel competition.