Immediately after his smashing WRC 2 victory in Spain, Pontus Tidemand jumped on a plane towards the next destination. In China awaits the last round of the Asia-Pacific Rally Championship, where Pontus has already secured the title, and the season ends with a premiere – this weekend he debuts the SKODA Fabia R5 on Asian soil.
The 24-year-old Swede has had a magnificent year with SKODA Motorsport. In his debut season in the Asia-Pacific Rally Championship (APRC), he has won in New Zealand, Australia, Malaysia and Japan and finished second in New Caledonia. The success meant that he and his co-driver Emil Axelsson became champions already after the Japanese event in September with one rally to go. In addition to the APRC, they have also made top performances in the WRC 2 with four podiums, including one victory, in the five events that they have done for SKODA.
The last round of the APRC is not just any event, this time Rally China Longyou is on the programme and that is one of the most important rallies this year. China is SKODA’s biggest and most valuable market and only in September, they delivered more than 25% of the Czech manufacturer’s total worldwide sales to China.
China has been a part of the APRC since 1997 and Rally China Longyou has been on the calendar every year since 2006. Longyou is a county in the Zhejiang province in eastern China, located about 400 km from the country’s largest city, Shanghai. The event offers 13 special stages totaling 230 km and the road surface is a mixture of gravel and concrete, which is a big challenge for drivers as well as teams and puts high demands on the cars’ set-up in order to be as well adjusted to the changing road characters as possible. Even more special than the road character is perhaps that some of the stages passes through bamboo forests and guarantee a unique experience for the international crews.
“For every good result, you just want more and after the win in Spain, we feel strengthened and confident coming to the last APRC event. We technically do not need to chase maximum points as we have secured the title already, but it will be great fun to drive the R5 for the first time in this part of the world. Since China is SKODA’s biggest market, we want to present both the car and ourselves in the best way possible, so there is no other option than to give it our all. It feels like we have preserved the pace from Spain and we also got good practice on mixed surface so I hope that can be to our advantage. We are struggling with the time difference but luckily we have a few days to get used to it” said Pontus, who makes his first visit to China and gets another experience from a rally that is completely new to him.
Rally China Longyou starts with a super special stage on Friday and the following two days contain six stages each before the finish on Sunday afternoon local time. The time difference is CET +7 hours.