Life doesn’t always go according to plan. That’s something Andreas Mikkelsen learned at a young age when he had to give up skiing. But he wasn’t done with sports: He became a professional rally car driver. The Norwegian racer sat down with CSQ ally Erik Huberman to discuss his athletic career and how he approaches each race and challenge.
How Mikkelsen’s Time in Sports Began
Erik Huberman: You’ve hit a mega career when it comes to rally racing. I’m curious: At 3 years old, was that already your dream?
Andreas Mikkelsen: I was born and raised in Norway and everything in it is about skiing. My sister used to be a skier and she used to do really well. I was more or less raised up in the mountains so skiing was my aim as a little kid.
I skied until I was 15 or 16 years old and was participating in the junior world championship. I was doing really good when I suddenly started to experience some pain in my knees.
At first, the doctors were unable to find out exactly what it was. I was skiing one day and the next morning, I woke up with my knees hurting a bit. In the end, I couldn’t even walk down the stairs the morning after practice. The doctors then thought it’s because of too much training at a young age.
It was very tough when it happened. I was going on a ski scholarship to a school in Norway up in the mountains. But now I couldn’t ski.
Next to my school in the mountains was a place called dog alley where they make tracks on the frozen lakes with cars. Normally, you have to be 18 years old to drive in Norway, but since it’s on a closed lake, I was able to try it. I then fell in love with the sport straight away.
The Challenges in Rally Racing
After discovering a love for driving, Mikkelsen realized that he’d found his new path. As hard as it was to stop skiing, he found himself becoming passionate about racing.
Mikkelsen: I was always interested in motorsports, especially after my fellow countryman, Petter Solberg, became a world champion in rallying. After his win, rallying became very popular in Norway.
The tricky part about motorsports, in general, is that they cost a lot of money. I was very fortunate at the time to have a father who could help me out in the beginning of my career. I wanted to start driving one year earlier. I moved to the UK because there you can get your driving license once you reach 17 years old. I then competed and won national rallies in the beginning of my career.
However, at around my third year in the sport, in 2008, an economic crisis occurred. My dad was struck hard so he told me that I should stop thinking about rallying. He urged me to go into the military or find a career business-wise or do something else.
I felt that I didn’t want to give up and still had a lot to give to the sport. I didn’t want to stop.
Mikkelsen’s Wins and Loses in Rally Racing
After getting the attention of Norwegian racing enthusiasts and landing sponsorship, Mikkelsen got back to rallying and competing in Norwegian championships. But it wasn’t easy. The sponsors needed to see that his talent was worth their investment.
Mikkelsen: They bought me this really cheap car, which was honestly much worse than what everyone else had. They told me that if I wanted their help, I had to do it their way.
I beat more or less everyone with that car. I think that’s when Skoda UK saw my results. They reached out to me, wanting me to drive for the European championship. They took me on board for two years, where I won both seasons.
I was then signed as a junior driver for Volkswagen. In 2014 to 2016, I was third in the overall standings in the world championship. At the end of 2016, I was the only one who challenged the world champion. At around the same time, Volkswagen got caught in the Dieselgate scandal. They had to pull out at the end of 2016 and they scrapped all the motorsport projects.
The problem with that is that all the other manufacturers had already signed their drivers for 2017. So mid-season 2017, I did some rallies for Skoda to fight my way back into the championship.
I then signed for Hyundai for what turned out to be a really frustrating two seasons, to be honest. All the cars are a bit different to drive. You have to adjust your driving style a bit to make the most out of the cars. It was the first time in my life where I couldn’t really adapt to the car. I was fighting in the corners to make the car turn. I was not as successful as I had anticipated even if I was fourth in the championship. I felt like I lost one-tenth of a second going into every corner.
His Aspirations and Advice
Mikkelsen’s general love for speed, adrenaline, and taking calculated risks made him the driver that challenged the world champion. The obstacles he had to face in his career made him stronger. Being so close to the world championship, he has clear goals for his career’s future.
Mikkelsen: Of course, I want to be in the world championship, driving for car manufacturers. Fighting for the world championship and becoming the world champion, that’s my goal. I’ve been close many times.
Huberman: For someone who wants to achieve what you have, what advice would you give? What made you stick with this?
Mikkelsen: When you become successful or start having great results, the feeling is just so good. I think it’s really important to enjoy those moments. The difficult times will be there so it’s really important to feel it when things are going well. It’s so important to have fun.
Watch the full interview here.
Top photo courtesy Andreas Mikkelsen.
Erik Huberman is the Founder & CEO of Hawke Media, a full-service Outsourced CMO based in Santa Monica, CA that launched in 2014 and has been valued at $60 million.