After last year’s success where he completely dominated the WRC 2 and took the champion title, Pontus Tidemand is now ready to start a new season. He does his fourth year as a works driver for SKODA Motorsport with the main goal of defending his title – a tough fight that, just like previous year, starts on home soil at Rally Sweden with a huge support from the massive crowds.
“To compete at our Swedish WRC event is just as special every time” said Pontus. “It is without a doubt the most fun rally of the year and last time was extra special. To cross the finish line as the winner after a perfect weekend with our home crowd cheering for us, that is something I will always remember. But that was last year, now we start over and we have a lot to live up to. There is nothing but trying to defend the title and show that we can do more than win championships, we also have the speed.”
Rally Sweden is still the only true winter round in the FIA World Rally Championship and this time the crews face the most snowy conditions in many years. The snow banks, which are typical for the event and that the drivers can lean on to guide the car round the corners, might be more treacherous than usual because of the snow levels. A small mistake can cause the car getting stuck, especially if the temperatures drop and the snow becomes more porous. The studded tyres provide good grip but also comes with a challenge to fall into a soft rhythm and find the right braking points. At lower temperatures, the studs tear up the road surface and the exposed gravel might rip off the studs.
“It is tempting to go flat out from start when the roads are so inviting and you want it so much. But with that comes big risks early in the competition. You need to give yourself the time to adjust and not let the stress get to you. If you have a strategy and drive with your inside just as much as your outside, it usually pays off in the end” said Pontus, who over and over again has proved his mental strength when it comes to staying cool under pressure. He also has a great advantage in having Jonas Andersson, one of the world’s most experienced co-drivers, by his side.
Just like last year, the service area is located in Torsby in northern parts of Värmland county and a solid programme of 19 special stages of approximately 314 km await during the four competitive days. The official start and the first super special stage takes place traditionally at Färjestad trotting track in Karlstad on Thursday evening. All stages but the last on Friday run on the Norwegian side of the border, while Saturday include classic stages like Vargåsen with the mega popular Colin’s Crest. Three stages wraps up the weekend’s action on Sunday with the finish right at the service area.
“We have driven most of the stages at some point before so they feel familiar and we have had a few weeks with thorough preparation. I actually have not competed since October last year but I have been to some tests. All driving is good driving but now it is time to kick it up a notch and find the competitive speed again. With many fast and experienced drivers, the competition will be really tough, maybe especially from our EVEN Management and SKODA team-mate, Ole Christian Veiby, who looks really quick after a couple of rallies during the winter. But we will do everything in our power to challenge our competitors and get a great season premiere” said Pontus.