It takes a large amount of concentration and perseverance to even make it through Malaysian Rally, the fourth round of the FIA Asia-Pacific Rally Championship. The Swedish rally talent Pontus Tidemand did more than that – after two competitive days in massive heat, he took yet another valuable win for ŠKODA Motorsport and MRF Tyres in his ŠKODA Fabia Super 2000.
Just like expected, Malaysian Rally became the most demanding challenge so far this year. To be focused and fast is not enough here; the heat and the humidity offer the biggest competition, both for crews and cars. The cooling vests that the drivers and co-drivers use only helps to a certain limit and with short liaison distances, there is not much time to fill up with fluids, which makes it more difficult to keep the concentration and easy to make mistakes. The cars risk to become overheated while the heat also takes its toll on components such as tyres and dampers.
“I was prepared that the heat would be close to unbearable, but it was actually even tougher than I expected” said Pontus. “It started pretty okay for us and we had some really good stages, but towards the afternoon it was on the verge of what you can handle. Considering that feeling, we are happy that we could give that little bit extra and just stand the heat long enough to get to the finish on Saturday.”
Thanks to their fighting spirit, Pontus and his co-driver Emil Axelsson managed to take the lead already on the first stage of the rally and even though they had to stop more than once to remove grass from the radiator, they kept the rest of the field behind them and took five out of eight stage wins. Their MRF teammate Gaurav Gill ran into the same problem, but could not match Pontus’ speed this time. By the end of the first competitive day, Gill was almost a minute and a half behind.
Pontus proved to be unstoppable also on Day two. He quickly found a good pace, beat his competitors on five of the day’s six stages and gradually extended his lead for every stage. When the 14th and final stage was completed, Pontus and Emil had a nearly two minute margin to Gill in second place.
“This is the most extreme rally experience I have ever had and I will remember this weekend for the rest of my life” said Pontus with a smile. “But the fact that it was so tough makes us treasure our win even more and it is a nice feeling to know that you are capable of more than you think. I am very satisfied with my own and Emil’s performance, but also very impressed by the other participants and the teams that work so hard in the heat. Now I really look forward to the last two APRC rounds!”
The two remaining rounds of the 2015 FIA Asia-Pacific Rally Championship are Rally Hokkaido in Japan in mid September and the Chinese round China Rally at the end of October. After the first four events, Pontus has three wins and one second place and extends his overall championship lead even further.