Pontus Tidemand came to Portugal’s WRC round with the target to complete all special stages and make a debut as good as possible with ŠKODA’s new Fabia R5. He made an impressive effort during the four competitive days and took home third place in WRC 2 thanks to his mature and stabile driving.
“It is fantastic to finish on the podium in my first event with the Fabia R5. This exceeded my own expectations and I am really pleased” said a happy Pontus after crossing the finish line.
Pontus and his co-driver Emil Axelsson had perhaps the most hectic preparation out of all the crews competing at Rally Portugal. Last weekend they competed in New Caledonia and then jumped straight on a plane to Europe, just to be thrown into the WRC circus as soon as they arrived. But jetlag did not stop them from making a focused performance over the weekend.
With nearly 30 competitive cars, the WRC 2 category saw more entries than in a long time and with that came fierce competition. It is important to get a good start if you want to be in the fight, something that was no problem for Pontus, who had a flying start on Thursday evening’s super special. In front of 25 000 spectators, he set the third fastest time, only three seconds behind Nasser Al-Attiyah from Qatar.
The following days, Rally Portugal lived up to its reputation as one of the toughest gravel events in the WRC calendar. The rocky roads caused trouble for many crews and the tactical challenge became more important, both in terms of tyre choice and how to tackle the stages. On Friday, Pontus focused on stabile driving with the goal to not take risks or lose too much time. Despite problems with the brakes on the fourth stage, which cost 20 seconds, he managed to finish the day in the same place as the night before.
On Saturday, it was all about continuing to drive wisely and make the most of every kilometer. Pontus still made a grand achievement and set some really impressive stage times – even though he did not use his full capacity to not risk the weekend’s main objective. Sadly he struggled with breaking issues again on the last stage of the day, but his third place was never in danger.
With only three stages on Sunday morning, Pontus defended third place and secured another WRC 2 podium. This time as a works driver for ŠKODA Motorsport and also in a brand new car.
“The R5 is really fun to drive and we quickly found the rhythm and adjusted to the car” said Pontus. “We made it through all the stages and it worked very well overall. We lost the brakes on two stages, which was a shame, but it is part of the development of the new car so you have to have that in mind in these first events. But the car definitely delivers and it is a great feeling to be in the top fight and at the same time know that you are not using your maximum capacity. We have more to give, so I am already looking forward to our next chance with the Fabia R5 in WRC.”
The weekend was a successful WRC comeback for ŠKODA. In addition to Pontus’ third place, Esapekka Lappi, who is Pontus’ teammate in both ŠKODA and EVEN Management, finished second in WRC 2.
In a little over two weeks, it is time for Pontus and Emil to pack their bags and travel to Australia to continue chasing points in the FIA Asia-Pacific Rally Championship. International Rally of Queensland is next up and the event takes place between 19 and 21 June.
Rally de Portugal WRC 2 top 5
1. Nasser Al-Attiyah 3:41:35.3
2. Esapekka Lappi +12.0
3. Pontus Tidemand +37.8
4. Julien Maurin +2:59.6
5. Stéphane Lefebvre +3:16.9