It is time for Pontus Tidemand to once again embrace the WRC challenge on home turf when Rally Sweden kicks off on Thursday. The 24 year old Swede is prepared for a tough fight, but aims for success and hopes that his experience can be an advantage when he and co-driver Emil Axelsson step into their M-Sport run Ford Fiesta RRC to battle it out in the WRC 2 category.
Rally Sweden is the only full-snow event in the FIA World Rally Championship series and it is not a coincidence that there are often Scandinavians on the podium. Driving on snow and ice is a challenge that requires precision and years of training – success comes with experience. Studded tyres are a must and they provide outstanding grip, but the drivers also have to adapt both braking points and driving style in order to keep the line. The studs often tear up the road surface and expose gravel, which can damage or even rip the studs off the tyres and quickly reduce the grip. The characteristic snow banks can also be treacherous as it often is a fine balance between using them to guide the car round corners and the risk of getting stuck.
Backed by EVEN Management, Tätab and several local sponsors, Pontus will be behind the wheel of a Ford Fiesta RRC for the first time. The RRC is basically as close to a WRC car as you can get with a chassis that is identical to a WRC Fiesta, but somewhat less effect in the turbocharger. Compared to an R5, the RRC is a slightly more sophisticated rally car with more advanced components. Pontus is now making his fourth start in Rally Sweden and the past two years he has been driving a Ford Fiesta WRC, something he hopes will be to his advantage now that he switches to a Fiesta RRC.
“Sure there are some small differences between a WRC car and an RRC, but I like the feeling I got when we tested in the beginning of the week” says Pontus. “The RRC is really fun to drive and I hope my previous experiences with a WRC car on snow can be at my advantage when the rally starts.”
The Swedish winter has so far offered great snow conditions and Pontus has made a focused warm-up in a WRC Fiesta since mid January to be maximally ready for Rally Sweden. First up was Finnskogsvalsen and Pontus followed it up by securing the title ‘Swedish Rally Sprint Champion’ at the end of the month. The finishing touches of the competitive shape was made on the Swedish Rally Championship premiere in Sandviken over the past weekend, where Pontus and Emil, with special permission, ran on the same tyres used in the WRC instead of national tyres – another important part of the preparations.
“We have done the most of our opportunities to practise and I feel as prepared as I can be” says Pontus. “As a competitive person, it would be foolish to say that we aim for anything but the top position, but it will be super tough competition in the WRC 2 category with many who wants to finish on top of the podium on Sunday. If we quickly find the rhythm and use mine and Emil’s experiences in the right way, I definitely think we have a realistic chance to be in the game. We will fight to the last meter and I’m really looking forward to seeing Swedish flags along the stages!”
Rally Sweden takes place between 12 och 15 February and according to tradition, the first stage is a super special stage at the Färjestad track in Karlstad on Thursday evening. A total of 308 km special stages will be accomplished during the four competitive days before the crews reach the finish on the main square in Karlstad on Sunday afternoon.