The dominant victory at Rally Uppsala, just over a week ago, made Pontus Tidemand hungry for more. Now he is in Spain, ready to pick up his WRC 2 season again. Rally Spain is the only event in the series that mixes gravel and tarmac on its 19 special stages that are comparable to a race circuit in its characteristics. That offers the drivers quite a challenge – but Pontus, who has previously done great here, welcomes the big task.
“This is definitely one of my favorite events in the WRC. The roads are really cool on both gravel and tarmac, but I’m looking particularly forward to Friday on gravel. We got great practice at Rally Uppsala and I hope that will give us an advantage. The transition to tarmac is a challenge for everyone, including the teams, who need to convert the cars to a new specification. The ones who manage it smoothly, can quickly climb on the leaderboard” said Pontus, who took the WRC 2 victory here exactly a year ago. Then, just like now, behind the wheel of a SKODA Fabia R5 for SKODA Motorsport.
After Thursday’s opening street stage in Barcelona, the rally continues on Friday, where the stages run on gravel – apart from the longest stage of the weekend, almost 40 km, that consist of a combination of gravel and tarmac. It requires the cars to have a setup that works also on tarmac section and the drivers need to quickly adjust their driving style during the stage. The Friday evening service is longer than usual to give the teams time to convert their cars to tarmac specification for Saturday’s stages – a challenge that is just as big as the drivers and co-drivers, who need to adjust overnight.
Saturday and Sunday offers tarmac only. Some of Saturday’s stages has not been a part of the event since 2013, while other stages are driven in the opposite direction compared to last year. The roads are fast and can be compared to a race track, which makes it important to drive wisely even where the roads invite you to go flat out. The tarmac also tends to get very hot in the Spanish sunshine, something that makes tyre management extra challenging during the final legs.
Pontus and his co-driver Jonas Andersson is now in seventh place in the WRC 2 overall standings, but unlike many of their competitors, they have only been competitive in four out of the seven WRC 2 events that are nominated during a season. A podium position is not far away at the same time as the battle gets tougher and tougher now that the season is slowly coming to an end.
“I try not to think too much about the championship right now” said Pontus. “We do this race by race with the goal to perform as well as we possibly can every time we are on the starting line. Things can quickly change, something that we have had a taste of in a couple of rallies this year, but the same goes for our competitors as well. Jan Kopecký and Teemu Suninen will be hard to beat this weekend, but we will give it a try. When it comes to the championship, the only thing we can do is to continue fighting and remember that nothing is decided until the last stage in the final event is completed.”