This year it was a no show for Rally Sweden’s charachteristic winter wonderland. Instead the event was all about rain, gravel and slush, which made the event really tough on the competitors. Sweden’s Pontus Tidemand didn’t get along with his M-Sport run Ford Fiesta RS WRC and struggled with the setup. Despite that, he ended up on eight place in his first finished WRC event in a World Rally Car.
Rally Sweden didn’t start in the best way possible for Pontus Tidemand. On the first stage of the rally, Wednesday’s super special in Karlstad, he raced against EVEN Management colleague Andreas Mikkelsen. But a lot of snow in the track caused hm problems with the grip, he lost a couple of seconds already in the start and ended the first day in eleventh place.
On Thursday, which was the first proper day of the rally, the competitors crossed the Norwegian border for a couple of stages in the neighbouring country, But the mild and damp weather had affected the road and for Pontus, who started further back in the field, this meant bigger challenges.
”The roads got pretty bad before I even started, but we did the best we could from our position” said Pontus on the final service break on Tursday evening. “The feeling was okay, but at the same time we knew that we had more to work on. We decided to save tyres as we still have most of the event in front of us, but we didn’t just cruise through. Neither did we have any incidents although we really fought to get everything right with the car.”
Friday, the longest day of the rally, offered tough conditions with both ice and gravel on the roads and rain and snow in the air. Pontus struggled to keep up a good pace and not fall behind. He set even times and apart from a puncture, he survived the day without any major mistakes.
”We’ve worked really hard on the setup today” explained Pontus. “It started very tough for us this morning, but during the afternoon I felt like I could trust the car more and the right confidence began to show.”
After Friday’s closing super special, Pontus had a grip of the eigth place and was realisticly optimistic going into the final competitive day. The main goal was to reach the finish, a good result would only be a bonus.
But Saturday started off as an uphill battle. Pontus still felt the problems, couldn’t attack the stages like he wanted to and continued to lose time for each stage.
”We had big problems with the car” says Pontus. “Before the event I picked a different rear diff than the one that M-Sport recommended and it didn’t work at all. These stages are so fast that you really need to have trust in the car in order to be able to push. I realized that we would have to change it if we would stand a chance to get a few good stages before it was too late.”
During the midday service break, the rear diff got changed and the setup was adjusted. It paid off – Pontus immediately got along better with the car and could keep up good pace. “Now it’s finally me that is driving the car, not the other way around” he said after one of the afternoon stages.
At the finish on Saturday afternoon, Pontus was still in eigth position and although he would have liked to advance a bit on the leaderboard, he is pleased with the result.
”I’m happy that we made it all the way to the finish and that we continued to fight until the very end. It’s not fun to try to go on when the feeling is everything but good, but this has given me so much experience and I’ve also learned a lesson. This is the time for me to develop and move forward, and if you see it that way I guess it’s better to make mistakes now compared to when I’m driving the whole WRC series” says Pontus with a smile.
Photo: Andre Lavadinho