Sweden’s Pontus Tidemand could not have had a better start to his new adventure in the FIA Asia-Pacific Rally Championship with ŠKODA Motorsport. At this weekend’s International Rally of Whangarei in New Zealand, he took control from the start and dominated all through the rally. With 15 stage wins, he won his first APRC event in great style – with a victory margin of nearly six minutes.
Pontus and his co-driver Emil Axelsson came to New Zealand and the first round of Asia-Pacific Rally Championship with the goal of getting maximum experience and to secure their first championship points. But holding back is not Pontus’ thing – he showed his capacity already at Friday’s shakedown where he set the fastest time and then he repeated it on the two opening super special stages in the evening. That gave him a slight advantage for Saturday’s full-length stages.
Saturday offered changing weather conditions with both dry and wet roads, which caused problems for many crews. Pontus however, was satisfied with the settings on his Team MRF run ŠKODA Fabia Super 2000, tackled the task beautifully and managed to stay out of trouble. During the day, he extended his lead from 1.3 seconds to as much as four minutes when the first ten stages of the rally were completed.
The last day of the event included not only the longest stage of the rally, but also the fastest stages with tarmac sections. With a decent lead, Sunday’s biggest challenge for Pontus was to keep cool and not back off too much to not risk losing focus. He was also the first competitive car on the road and had to handle the extra challenge in the form of loose gravel, a difficulty that Pontus saw as useful practice. When the final stage was completed, he had lined up 15 stage wins out of 16 possible and extended the time difference to his competitors even further. The victory margin measured five minutes and 51.8 seconds.
“It feels incredibly great to begin my APRC season like this and to deliver a good result for ŠKODA” said Pontus. “Although we have had the lead from start, we have worked hard on every stage. The New Zealand roads are really cool, but they are also tricky, requires full concentration and you can not relax even for a second. The team has handled the car and tyres superbly and Emil has, as always, done a perfect job in the co-driver’s seat. We have gained a lot of new experiences and good practice for upcoming events and I am so pleased and happy for what we have accomplished this weekend.”
The next event in the FIA Asia-Pacific Rally Championship is Rally New Caledonia on 15-17 May.
APRC International Rally of Whangarei
1. Pontus Tidemand 2:55:29.4
2. Gaurav Gill +5:51.8
3. Michael Young +5:53.8
4. Subhan Aksa +9:14.2
5. Jean-Louis Leyraud +15:43.5