Reigning Junior World Champion Pontus Tidemand is all set to start his international season when the World Rally Championship series continues with Rally de Portugal this week. Development is the main focus and Pontus looks forward to his premiere with a Ford Fiesta R5 in the technically demanding gravel rally.
Pontus won the JWRC category in Portugal 2013.
Last year, a determined Pontus had one goal – to win the JWRC series, a goal that he reached after hard work and strategic decisions throughout the year. Now it’s time to advance to the second highest category in the World Rally Championship, WRC 2, and with the funding support from EVEN Management and Tätab, the team has come up with a plan to make it possible for Pontus to gain even more experience from events all over Europe during 2014.
“I’ve been looking forward to the next challenge since we finished JWRC last year” says Pontus. “WRC 2 is a natural step in my development and our plan is to participate in six or seven events this year, with the primarily goal to continue building experience for the future.”
British M-Sport became the first manufacturer to produce an R5 rally car and it debuted competitively last year. The R5 is included in the WRC 2 category, where the Super 2000 cars are included as well, is equipped with a 1.6 litres turbocharged engine with a 32 mm restrictor and a five-speed gear box. Pontus has briefly tried the car on two occasions, but has unfortunately not had the opportunity to do a real pre event test for Rally de Portugal.
“We will simply make the best of the situation and consider this a bit of a test for the rest of the season” says Pontus. “It’s a big lineup in WRC 2 that offers tough competition and I hope we can have a good progression during the rally.”
This marks the third time that Pontus participates in Rally de Portugal and both previous times he finished on the podium in the junior category. The event is one of the most technically challenging in the series and the mix of narrow sections, open roads and hidden difficulties makes it problematic to find the rhythm. The roads are also hard on the tyres and have a clay surface in many places, which quickly becomes very slippery if it starts to rain.
“Rally Portugal is a rally where you have to use your head, you can’t just lean on speed” says Pontus. “The rocky roads make it easy to pick up punctures at the same time as there are many hidden crests and corners. If the pace notes are not correct, you can quickly get in trouble.”
Rally de Portugal is mainly run in the Algarve region but starts with a super special stage in Lisbon on Thursday evening. On Friday and Saturday awaits six stages each day before the final three stages on Sunday. All in all, 16 special stages of a total of 339,46 km will be completed during the weekend.
20 crews have entered the WRC 2 category for Rally de Portugal and nine of those drive Ford Fiesta R5, including the championship leader Yuriy Protasov.
Photo: Andre Lavadinho