2012-year’s premiere of the Junior World Championships in rally officially named WRC Academy crossed the finish line during Saturday afternoon in Faro at the Algarve coast in Portugal. The 21-year nationalteam driver in rally Pontus Tidemand together with co-driver Stig-Rune Skjaermoen finished in third place.
The first round of the six in the WRC Academy was Rally Portugal who already started on Thursday with a spectator-stage in city of Lisbon and another three stages in the dark on gravel.
The superspecial that ran through the streets of Lisbon and attracted large crowds started not quite as Pontus wanted.
– I slipped some into the first turn and lost some time but decided to take it easy and try and take in a bit when we would run gravel stages in the evening, says Pontus
At once the ten WRC Academy-crews, all in identical Ford Fiesta R2 came out on the gravel stages Pontus show that he is to be reckoned with in this year’s series.
With a fourth time on the second stage and with a stagewin and second time on the other two stages so was Pontus in fourth place in the class after the first day’s route.
– It was a new experience driving in the dark with the dust in these difficult type of gravelroads. The last two stages went really well and it was great to take my first stagewin in the WRC Academy already on the first day, said Tidemand who run the championship with support from Norwegian talent Development Company EVEN rally.
On Friday, the plan was to run sex stages in the mountains north of Faro, but the weather gods wanted else. The rain was pouring down and with a massive fog, it was a challenging day for the rally participants.
Pontus continued at a fast but steady pace without taking any risks and had a fourth time and second time on the first two stages, but on the roadsection to reach stage seven the road was washed away and rally cars could not go forward to the stage.
– It was pouring down rain, was just mud on the road and the visibility was only ten meters due to the fog. I have never experienced anything like this weather, but just had to take it easy and try to get to stage finish, says Pontus
The organizers took a quick decision to first cancel stage seven and after an hour so it was decided that all the stages that remained of the day would be canceled because of the weather.
On Saturday the final three stages for WRC Academy was run and Pontus was on a solid third place with 2.5 minute down to fourth and 24 seconds up to second place. Pontus decided to try to narrowing the gap on second-placed Australian Brendan Reeves by increasing the pace a bit on today’s first stage.
– I raised my pace a little more but I felt like I lost the power of the car and thought I must try to get through this rally and secured the podium. To reach the finish has been the goal all the time with this event. Most important of all is to gain experience of WRC championship roads and cross the finish in a good position for the rest of the series, says Pontus
Pontus drove the last stages with a steady pace despite the problems with the fuel pressure of the car, but at the last regrouping before going over the finish in the servicepark the car stopped and did not start again.
– There was little drama, but it all worked out because we simply had to push the car into the last service and parc ferme. We received a time penalty of 10 seconds but it did not matter to the end result, says Pontus.
Once the car reached parc ferme, it was clear that Pontus managed third place in the WRC Academy, where Brendan Reeves took care of second place and was won by Allister Fisher.
– I’m very happy with the race. Sure i wanted to win as always, but this is a good start for the championship and it have been very useful experience that I will benefit me greatly in the future, concludes Tidemand
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