SKODA Motorsport’s Pontus Tidemand greatly impressed when he took control over the Spanish WRC 2 event this weekend. After an outstandingly quick start with his Fabia R5, he got a good gap to his competitors and looked after his advantage until he could cross the finish line as the winner of the WRC 2 class.
“What a feeling! This has been one of my best weekends in the WRC and I’m massively happy to help SKODA get another victory. I have not felt any pressure at all so I have been able to feel my way and form my plan after that. This time everything felt right from the start and that lead the way to a great rally” said Pontus after the finish.
Rally de Espana began with a spectator stage in Barcelona on Thursday evening. Pontus, who is accompanied by the experienced co-driver Emil Axelsson, set the fifth fastest time on the three kilometer long asphalt stage, but were just four seconds off the lead. Gravel, with some sections of asphalt, was the main surface on Friday and Pontus quickly showed that he got along with the Spanish roads when he won stage after stage. It did not take long until he took the WRC 2 lead and increased it over the course of the day. A slow puncture a couple of kilometers from the finish on the eight and last stage of the day slowed down the Swedish crew, but since they did not have to stop and change the tyre, their time loss was not too big. By the end of Friday, they had half a minute’s lead with teammates Jan Kopecký and Esapekka Lappi in second and third place.
On Saturday, the main target was to make smart moves as the surface switched to asphalt. Given the importance of reaching the finish, Pontus backed off a bit as the same time as he took advantage of his speed when possible. Well aware that he lost seconds on every stage, he was not affected by it and instead controlled his driving and managed his advantage that had grown to well over a minute after Lappi was forced to retire after an incident on the second stage of the day. Pontus finished his Saturday by being fastest on the evening’s last stage and once again he had a 30 second lead overnight.
With Kopecký chasing from behind, the final day of the rally became a thriller. Pontus remained calm in the storm and concentrated fully on safely getting through the stages. Ahead of the 23rd and last stage, he still had the upper hand and 10.7 seconds to spare on his teammate. But on the last stage, reigning world champion Sebastién Ogier crashed into a road barrier and Pontus was the only WRC 2 driver who was able to complete the stage. Shortly after that, it was clear that the stage had to be cancelled and Pontus and Emil was declared the WRC 2 winners.
“We came here with the main objective clear to us. It was to get through the rally in one piece, take as many points as possible for the team and at the same time get the experience we need from these tarmac roads. We stuck to that and drove controlled without taking risks. But when the car runs like a machine, the pacenotes are perfect and the teamwork is 100% perfect, then it simply goes fantastically well” said Pontus.
He also pointed out how important this year, and his participation in the Asia-Pacific Rally Championship, where he took the title last month, have been for his development as a driver:
“I have had many hours behind the wheel this year and through APRC I have faced new kinds of road characters and new challenges. That has given me invaluable experience that I can use in the WRC as well and it has also made me grow as a person.”
Not only did Pontus win his class, he also finished tenth overall with some of the WRC cars behind him. The Spanish WRC event was a double success for SKODA Motorsport, who secured the team championship in the WRC 2.