Pontus Tidemand has a solid lead in the Asia-Pacific Rally Championship when only two events remain in the series. The first one of the last two is Rally Hokkaido, which takes place in Japan this weekend. Much is at stake, but Pontus and co-driver Emil Axelsson are ready to once again jump into their SKODA Fabia Super 2000 and do what they always do – give it their all.
“Of course it feels great to come to Japan as the championship leader” said Pontus. “But each rally comes with a new challenge, especially for me as I do all these events for the first time and never really know what to expect. Every APRC event is so unique, which gives you an incredible amount of experience and I have to say that there is a certain excitement in doing a rally you have never done before.”
The 2015 Rally Hokkaido is the 14th APRC event held in Japan and it often attracts big crowds – last year, almost 50 000 made it out to the stages to see the rally cars from first row. The event has not only history with the APRC, but also with the World Rally Championship. In 2003, it became a candidate for the WRC and in 2004 it was arranged together with WRC Rally Japan. The events were held separately the following year and has since then also included the Japanese Rally Championship and it is currently the only international FIA rally that takes place in Japan.
Hokkaido is the northernmost of Japan’s islands and has widespread forests, mountains and agricultural land. The island is located on the same latitude as northern Italy and France and due to the North Pacific Current, Hokkaido has long and cold winters. The Tokachi region, where Rally Hokkaido takes place, is a rather flat area with mostly agricultural land. The island’s two mountain ranges affect Tokachi’s weather and some stages reach the foothills of the mountains, but that is the closest the rally crews will get to those mountains. The typical September weather is relatively similar to the autumn weather in Northern Europe with cold mornings and evenings, while the daytime temperature can rise quite rapidly when the skies are blue. But overall, this is a rainy season, something that could potentially become a crucial factor in this weekend’s event.
The rally base and the service park is located in the city of Obihiro, which has about 170 000 inhabitants and a big interest in rally permeates the neighborhood, perhaps thanks to the fact that the city hosted Japan’s WRC Rally between 2004 and 2007.
20 special stages will be completed between Friday evening and Sunday afternoon. The event both begins and ends with a fast super special of less than a kilometer and the rest of the stages are evenly divided with ten stages on Saturday and nine on Sunday, including the super special. When the crews reach the finish line, they have mastered a total of 225.35 km.
“I have no doubt that this will be an interesting weekend now that we approach the end of the season and this is a rally that I really look forward to do. We are ready to fight for a great result and hopefully it will be a close and exciting race” said Pontus.
After Asia-Pacific Rally Championship’s fourth round, Pontus has 147 points in the standings, which gives him a 43 points’ lead over Gaurav Gill in second place. In addition to the fast and experienced Gill, Rally Hokkaido offers about 25 strong competitors and among them another Swede – Patrik Sandell, who has vast experience from the WRC as well as Global Rallycross and the X Games.