Rally Sweden finally got to see a Swedish leader when Pontus Tidemand – behind the wheel of a WRC 2 car – took a sensational overall lead after Rally Sweden’s opening stage on Thursday evening. An off ruined the chances of winning, but Pontus saw every opportunity to show speed and make the most of his position. That resulted in a fifth place and most stage wins in his class.
Pontus Tidemand could not have had a better start to his Rally Sweden. Already on Thursday morning’s shakedown, he found a great feeling in his M-Sport run Ford Fiesta RRC, which he now competed with for the first time. On the evening super special at Färjestad racetrack in Karlstad, he managed to surpass everyone’s expectations by setting a stage time that not even the most experienced WRC drivers could beat. In front of a cheering home crowd, he took the overall lead for the first time in a WRC event.
”It was an incredible feeling to get my first stage win in the WRC and at the same time take the lead” says Pontus. “We had a good attack, but I did not expect that it would go this well, especially not with a WRC 2 car. It was obviously also great fun to please the spectators! Definitely a night I will remember.”
With full concentration on the challenges that awaited, Pontus started a bit careful on Friday and gradually increased his speed. He had a solid second place with eyes on first place when he got into trouble on the seventh stage of the rally. A mistake turned into an off and Pontus got stuck in a ditch until helpful spectators came to the rescue. The incident costed him nearly five and a half minute and he dropped down to tenth place.
”We made a mistake that had major consequences for us” says Pontus. “It happens so quickly in this sport and you can not go back and change it. It is like a slap in the face and you get really disappointed, but we chose to focus our frustration on doing as well as possible on the remaining stages and give the spectators out in the forests a real show.”
The positive approach proved to be the right way to begin the climb up the leaderboard – already on the following stage, Pontus took a convincing stage win with more than a 12 seconds’ margin to the runner-up. He scooped yet another fastest stage time before the overnight break and the plan for the rest of the weekend was crystal clear: to perform on each stage and continue chasing stage wins, something Pontus sure knew how to do. On Saturday he was quickest on five out of eight stages and by the end of the day, the time gap had been reduced to a little over four minutes, which put Pontus and his co-driver Emil Axelsson in sixth place in the WRC 2 class.
On Sunday they caught about ten seconds on every stage and when the three final stages were completed, they had moved up to fifth place, with just three seconds to fourth place and 16 seconds to third.
”You almost wish that there had been one more stage, then we might have been able to reach the podium” says Pontus with a smile. “But overall we have had a very good weekend and if it had not been for that off on Friday, it would have been perfect. This is not the result we had hoped for, but we have done absolutely everything we could. We still take a bunch of stage wins, a good feeling with the car and a fantastic teamwork with us. We know that we have the capacity to be fastest and that strengthens us for the upcoming season.”
Overall, Pontus took as many as ten stage wins and seven second quickest times on the 21 special stages. He also made an impressive effort to catch nearly two minutes during the two last days of the rally.