Pontus Tidemand repeated his success from 2013 when he took the gold medal in the Swedish Championship Rally Sprint on Saturday. After four fast heats in a Ford Fiesta WRC, he won the final with an 11 seconds’ margin and is now Swedish champion in rally sprint.
The road conditions were not in the drivers’ favour on Saturday’s Swedish Championship Rally Sprint. Changes in the weather had turned the road into a bumpy mixture of snow, gravel and mud and it was not just a fight between drivers, it was also a struggle against the road surface. Pontus was fastest in both qualifying heats and topped the list of the ten finalists in the four wheel drive category. With many good drivers in the lineup, there was hard competition, but Pontus had the upper hand from start and had even more to give. After a stunning performance in the two final runs, he won by over 11 seconds.
“Absolutely fantastic” says Pontus. “We got great practise in difficult conditions although the stage was not that long. That will definitely be valuable when we move on to WRC 2 as that will most likely be even tougher. But most importantly, a day like this gives you a lot of positive energy and is a real boost for what’s to come. We will enjoy this victory all the way to the start of Rally Sweden!”
Pontus shares his gold medal with co-driver Patrik Barth, who has been by Pontus’ side for the last eight months. They did their first event together last summer and since then they have done a few local rallies, Rallye de France-Alsace in the WRC 2 category and just a week ago they were safety crew for Ole Christian Veiby in Rallye Monte Carlo. But after this weekend, Patrik will step aside and let Emil Axelsson take place in the co-driver’s seat. Emil will be Pontus’ official co-driver during 2015, starting with next weekend’s Swedish Championship event ‘Vinterpokalen’.
Emil has a long experience as a co-driver and made his first appearance with Pontus already in 2011 when he helped him secure the gold medal in the Swedish Rally Championship. In 2012, they teamed up again for The Midnight Sun Rally and Emil also accompanied Pontus in Rallye Deutschland. Last year, Emil was the first choice to replace Ola Fløene, but it was too difficult to combine with Emil’s job as team manager for EKS. Now Emil has chosen to come back to rallying and team up with Pontus and EVEN Management. With his vast experience, the team is convinced that he is the right man to guide Pontus towards a top position this year.
Both Pontus and EVEN Management are incredibly pleased and grateful for the job Patrik has done, and for his time, commitment and positive attitude. The management sees great potential in Patrik and will keep him under their roof and give him further assignments and the opportunity to develop as a co-driver.
“I really appreciate everything that Patrik has done for me” says Pontus. “He has done a superb job right from our first rally together and I have seen him take big steps forward in his development over the past months. He has all the qualities it takes to become a world class co-driver and he is definitely ready for it. I am happy that he remains in our system and I hope he gets to compete on international events in the nearest future, that is where he belongs.”
Patrik himself is also thankful and takes both knowledge and experience from his time with Pontus:
“I was aware that there could be a co-driver change, but I have still enjoyed every second that I have been involved in this” says Patrik. “Now I know how a team at the highest professional level works and they have helped me develop fast, both as a co-driver and as a person. To get to do a WRC 2 start for M-Sport is one of the highlights of my life and I am overjoyed that I got this chance and that we could do it as well as we did. I am so grateful for everything that I have learned and after all, I’m giving up the co-driver’s seat to one of the best co-drivers in Sweden, so I know that Pontus will have a great season.”
With this, Pontus enters the final warm-up phase for Rally Sweden. As mentioned, he will participate in the Swedish Rally Championship premiere in the city of Sandviken next weekend with Emil by his side – a perfect rehearsal for what is to come. They will once again drive a Ford Fiesta WRC and they have about 100 km special stages to look forward to on Friday and Saturday.