Pontus Tidemand barely had time to get off the podium in New Caledonia before he had to fly back to Europe and gear up for Rally Portugal. The 24-year-old makes his debut season for ŠKODA Motorsport and so far he has had great success in the Asia-Pacific Rally Championship’s two first rounds. Now it is time for him to jump back into WRC 2 with a brand new car.
“This will be my first event with the new ŠKODA Fabia R5 so there is a lot of excitement going on. To compete in the WRC for such a big manufacturer as ŠKODA is something I value very much and I am really looking forward to Rally Portugal” said Pontus, who during the past weekend finished second at Rally New Caledonia.
This time, Rally Portugal comes with a new, big challenge for most of the nearly 100 competing crews. For the first time since 2001, the event takes place in the northern part of the country, which means that not even the top drivers has experience from these stages. The base is now in Matosinhos while the ceremonial start on Thursday is located to the city of Guimarães.
The rally itself begins traditionally in the evening with a short spectator stage that is run on Lousada rallycross track. Friday’s special stages takes place far north, near the Spanish border, while Saturday offers the longest stages of the rally and they are located to the area near Amarante. The three final stages awaits on Sunday, one of these stages is the classic Fafe test and it is run twice.
ŠKODA has been away from the world championship for two years but is now making their WRC comeback and with the new Fabia R5, a new chapter in ŠKODA’s successful motorsport history begins. The car is completely new and the biggest difference compared to Fabia Super 2000 is the engine. A two-liter naturally aspirated engine is used in the S2000 while the R5 has an engine equipped with a 1.6 liter turbo, which enhances the performance of the car at the same time as it follows the trend of reduced displacement and less consumption. The new Fabia R5 also has a new five-gear sequential gearbox that, just like the engine, is developed according to the regulations of the International Automobile Federation (FIA).
“We have done quite a lot of intense testing with the R5 during the past months, but the ultimate test is of course to compete with the car” said Pontus. “It is really sharp and competitive and I hope we can get a good result. At the same time I am aware that we need to get to know the car and let it take time. We just have to take it stage by stage, but as usual give everything and see where it leaves us.”
What also makes this year’s Rally Portugal extra special for EVEN Management is that all four of the team’s rally talents are participating in the same event for the first time. Besides Pontus, Esapekka Lappi competes with ŠKODA’s second Fabia R5 in the WRC 2, Andreas Mikkelsen in WRC for Volkswagen and Ole Christian Veiby participates in the Junior WRC.