22 year old Pontus Tidemand had the most important weekend of the year ahead of him when he after a successful season had the chance to secure the Junior World Champion title in France. Although much was at stake, he managed to get a flawless event and took both the championship title and the victory in Rallye de France.
The goal for the 2013 season has been clear to Pontus since the beginning of the year: to become Junior World Champion. There have been strategic and well planned months, where the first priority has been to come well prepared to every event, something that has been possible thanks to the support from EVEN Management and Tätab. Now the goal is reached – after 250 kilometer of clever driving in unpredictable weather conditions and a strong mind that wasn’t affected by the pressure, Pontus took the world champion title on Saturday evening.
“I couldn’t possibly feel any better than I do right now”, says Pontus. “I’m so happy to win here in France and securing the title at the same time, this is without a doubt the best thing that has happened so far in my career! With this competition, it has certainly not been easy, but we’ve had a perfect season and a fantastic weekend without one single mistake. Words can’t describe how grateful I am towards everyone who has helped me reach this point, it is and has been a real team effort!”
Rallye de France kicked off on Thursday afternoon with a 4,55 km city stage in the hosting city of Strasbourg. Pontus and his experienced Norwegian co-driver Ola Fløene set the third fastest time and was only half a second behind Spanish José Suarez, who was fastest on the first stage.
Six stages awaited on Friday and the challenge was to find the rythm from start and avoid mistakes in the unpredictable weather. Pontus quickly found a good pace and got a stage win on the third stage of the rally. When Suarez, who also is the main rival in the hunt for the championship title, went off the road and had to retire after the fourth stage, it became even more important to stay cool and calm. After stabile driving on the remaining two stages, Pontus was in second place with half a minute up to leading Yeray Lemes going into the final day of competition.
For Pontus, Saturday was mainly about staying on the road and not take any risks that could jeopardize the championship. That meant he didn’t want to take on the fight with Lemes, but instead focus on staying in second place and avoid mistakes. On the eleventh stage, Lemes caught a puncture and found himself with a minute lead when three stages remained.
“Lemes and Suarez were incredibly fast this weekend but suffered from problems”, says Pontus. “For us, everything went smoothly and according to the plan to not risk anything. It was a difficult situation, but we focused on the championship and making it all the way to the finish.”
They made it to the finish line and Pontus was crowned Junior World Champion and winner of Rallye de France on Saturday evening. The victory margin landed on 42,3 seconds.
Pontus is born into a motosport family and has been Swedish as well as Scandinavian crosscart champion. Two years ago, he became the youngest Swedish rally champion of all times and last year he participated in World Rally Championship’s junior category, which last year was named WRC Academy, where he finished in third place overall after a season filled with trouble. This year, everything has worked out in the best way possible and Pontus has taken big steps forward in his progress, especially when it comes to tarmac driving.
The Junior WRC win is not only a great honor, it also gives Pontus six rounds in WRC2 in a Ford Fiesta R5 during the 2014 season.
“I’m really looking forward to next year”, says Pontus. “To get this much exprience in a Ford Fiesta R2 this season has been very valuable and moving on to an R5 and WRC2 feels like the perfect next step.”
As mentioned, EVEN Management has played a big role in Pontus’ progress. The Norwegian management company is specialized in developing and building talents in motorsport and among others they also manage Andreas Mikkelsen and Esapekka Lappi. Pontus’ JWRC title is the third international title that EVEN Management takes in three years (Mikkelsen became IRC champion in 2011 and 2012).
There is one event left in the Junior WRC calendar, Rally de Espana, in the end of October. No pressure for Pontus, but the other positions are still to be decided.
Results FIA Junior WRC Rallye de France-Alsace 2013
1. P. Tidemand (SWE) / O. Floene (NOR), 2:41:37.4
2. H. Arellano (LUX) / G. Houssin (FRA), +42.3
3. Y. Lemes (ESP) / R. Peñate (ESP), +1:10.6
4. M. Aasen (NOR) / M. Engan (NOR), +1:15.8
5. M. Koči (SVK) / L. Kostka (CZE), +1:54.2
6. M. Burri (SUI) / G. Moreau (FRA), +2:31.4
7. M. Bostanci (TUR) / O. Vatansever (TUR), +4:06.3
8. S. Pärn (EST) / K. Järveoja (EST), +4:38.3
9. N-P. Nieminen (FIN) / M. Korhonen (FIN), +6:39.2
— J. Suárez (ESP) / C. Carrera (ESP), retired
FIA Junior WRC standings after round five of six
1. P. Tidemand (SWE) 131
2. Y. Lemes (ESP) 73
3. J. Suárez (ESP) 68
4. S. Pärn (EST) 55
5. M. Burri (SUI) 46
6. M. Koči (SVK) 46
7. M. Aasen (NOR) 33
8. N.Nieminen (FIN) 26
9. M. Bostanci (TUR) 13
10. A. Amberg (FIN) -8