ŠKODA Motorsport’s Pontus Tidemand continues to impress in the FIA Asia-Pacific Rally Championship. At this weekend’s International Rally New Caledonia, he secured second place after a grand attack where he took a total of 13 stage wins. That means he maintain his lead in the overall championship standings.
There was no hesitation when Pontus Tidemand made his first start at Rally New Caledonia. Together with co-driver Emil Axelsson, he started the event strongly in his Team MRF run ŠKODA Fabia Super 2000 by setting the fastest time on the two opening super special stages on Friday evening. They took the rally lead overnight, 5.3 seconds ahead of teammate and biggest competition this season, Gaurav Gill (India).
The real challenge began on Saturday with proper stages on the slippery gravel roads with crests and technically demanding corners everywhere. That was when bad luck struck – only 200 meters into the first stage of the day, Pontus came too wide in a left hand corner and hit the right rear wheel in a small bank, which resulted in a puncture that eventually forced the wheel off the rim. With over 15 km to go, they had no choice but to stop to change the tyre. Although they made a quick change, they lost over two minutes and the rally became an even bigger fight than they had hoped for. They dropped to sixth place, but immediately recharged and began their climb up the leaderboard. By the end of the day, they had taken four stage wins, caught important seconds and also made it up to second place overall.
The Swedish crew began Sunday, the final day of the rally, with one minute and 56 seconds to leading Gill but the gap decreased radically during the day when Pontus offered maximum attack from start to finish. He was fastest on all seven stages and following the impressive effort, he could secure second place – just 39 seconds behind Gill. Pontus can also add another 31 points to his previous 39 in the overall standings and keeps his lead in the series.
“We have no reason to be anything but happy”, said Pontus. “The puncture made our weekend much more difficult, but we have gathered a lot of useful experience and we definitely finished the event in the best way possible considering our incident on Saturday. Besides the experience and the championship points, we also take with us the fact that we were fastest on 13 of the 16 special stages and that makes us excited about the rest of the APRC season. The whole team has performed really well during these days and it is a great feeling to have a part in ŠKODA and Team MRF scoring all three spots on the podium.”
The FIA Asia-Pacific Rally Championship continues with Rally Queensland in Australia on 19-21 June.
APRC International Rally New Caledonia (total event time)
1. Gill/Macneall, 02:29:16.4
2. Tidemand/Axelsson, 02:29:56.0
3. Leyraud/Beckwith, 02:35:39.6
4. Creugnet/Delrieu, 02:37:05.9
5. Guigou/Gaspard, 02:39:55.4
6. Dalstein/Dalstein, 02:40:43.5
8. Blanche/Gaspard, 02:53:39.8
9. Cazalas/Calvet, 02:55:17.4
Championship standings after round two
1. Pontus Tidemand (SWE) 70 points
2. Gaurav Gill (IND) 67
3. Michael Young (NZL) 26
4. Subhan Aksa (IDN) 20