Volkswagen driver Andreas Mikkelsen has been forced to withdraw from this weekend's round of the World Rally Championship in Germany due to back problems for his co-driver Mikko Markkula.
Markkula had complained of back problems during Rally Finland, and a subsequent MRI scan showed he had sustained two fractured vertebrae. The discovery led the Volkswagen team to withdraw Mikkelsen and Markkula for safety reasons.
Volkswagen Motorsport director Jost Capito explained his decision to withdraw Mikkelsen rather than recruiting a replacement co-driver for the Norwegian, saying: "It would be too risky to send [him] out with a co-driver alongside whom he has not driven prior to the rally. Andreas has changed his style of pace note this season, and Mikko is the only co-driver familiar with them."
Mikkelsen has competed for VW in the last five rallies and has scored points in each of them bar Rally Italy, where he suffered broken suspension three stages from the end while fighting for fourth.
"I am disappointed that we cannot line up at our team's home event," Mikkelsen said. "However, the health of my co-driver obviously takes priority.
"I will now try to support the team as much as possible in other ways. At least we completed the recce, so we can call on that information over the coming years."