Rally Finland – also called ‘the Formula 1 of rallying’ – is the event with the highest speed in the World Rally Championship. “It is like circuit racing on some of the world’s fastest gravel roads through the forest” said the Swedish rally ace Pontus Tidemand, who was on his way to securing second place in the WRC 2 class when his event came to an abrupt end with a crash on the very last stage after a close fight at full speed.
After Thursday’s short opening stage, Pontus and co-driver Jonas Andersson, were in fourth place overall, approximately a second off the lead, and continued the rally slightly defensive on Friday morning. But when they could make some minor changes to the car at the midday service, they could finally find the right rhythm and start fighting for the valuable seconds. They quickly climbed from fourth to third place and found themselves in a tight battle for second place with the Finn Teemu Suninen, while Pontus’ SKODA Motorsport and EVEN Management teammate Esapekka Lappi, held the lead.
“We knew that Esapekka would be tough to beat here” said Pontus. “He is extremely strong on his home soil and he was at it from the first stage. Our goal was to reach the podium and we were in top three and the fight with Suninen kept us motivated at the same time as it made us push even harder and go with maximum attack for most of the weekend.”
The thrilling fight continued on Saturday as Pontus and Suninen took time from each other and lost time to each other. Pontus was on a strong pace and before the day had come to an end, he had taken two stage wins, but Suninen was still in charge of second place. On Sunday, Pontus speeded up and put some extra pressure on his competitor. He took three stage wins in a row and ahead of the final stage, he was only 3.8 seconds behind Suninen. Pontus was first on the road and went flat out from start, but he did not get very far until it unfortunately was game over.
“We came a bit too fast over a crest and into a right hand corner with a lot of loose gravel, which made us go wide into the ditch. We hit the rear of the car and it threw us into a roll and we hit a tree and that is where our rally ended” said Pontus.
Luckily both Pontus and Jonas were unharmed in the crash, but the damaged car was not going anywhere.
“A huge disappointment for us and the team” said Pontus. “We gave it our all and really went for second place. Considering the speed we had, I think we could have made it. Now we have to focus on the improvement that we did between the first and last stage and remember that we actually had three great days and technically just one really bad stage. We are missing out on championship points here, but we will recharge and come back stronger in the German WRC event in a few weeks.”
Rally Deutschland is Pontus and Jonas’ first WRC event on asphalt this season. The event takes place between the 18th and 21st of August.