Pontus Tidemand has arrived to New Zealand and this weekend he debuts as a works driver for ŠKODA Motorsport and also makes his premiere in the FIA Asia-Pacific Rally Championship (APRC). The first round of the championship is the International Rally of Whangarei and the Swede is massively excited to take on the task on new ground.
“This will be a special experience” said Pontus. “ŠKODA has given us a warm welcome and I am really looking forward to our first event together with the new team. I have never been in this part of the world before but I have heard that the roads and the scenery is something unique. It is an exciting challenge that awaits us this weekend and even though everything is new, we will give 110% – this is where the fun begins.”
The three-day long Rally of Whangarei is, just like the name suggests, based in the city of Whangarei – which with its subtropical climate, is considered the warmest city in New Zealand. The event is the first one in this year’s FIA Asia-Pacific Rally Championship and kicks off with a show in the city centre on Friday where fans get the opportunity to see both the rally cars and the drivers at close range. A spectator stage is run twice in the evening before it is time to move up north to Kawakawa on Saturday for eight special stages on the fast and flowing cambered roads that the rally is famous for. On Sunday, the event travels south of Whangarei for the final six stages, including the longest stage of nearly 30 km. All in all, the rally covers 282 km special stages and the crews reach the finish line on Sunday afternoon (local time; CET +10h).
Pontus and his experienced co-driver Emil Axelsson begin their season in a ŠKODA Fabia Super 2000, just like their teammate and perhaps their strongest competitor Gaurav Gill from India, who became APRC champion in 2013. Several fast drivers with great experience are to be found in the rest of the line-up, including ŠKODA’s third Fabia S2000 driven by Jean-Louis Leyraud from New Caledonia. In total, the International Rally of Whangarei has attracted participants from six nations.
In 2015, Pontus represents ŠKODA in the prestigious FIA Asia-Pacific Rally Championship and later on in the season, he will also drive their brand new Fabia R5 that recently got approval from International Automobile Federation (FIA) and which Pontus has had the opportunity to test drive during the past weeks. The Chinese championship round in late October is a major focus as China is one of ŠKODA’s biggest markets. Pontus and Emil, who both are EVEN Management athletes, will have a busy year – in addition to the APRC, they will also participate in selected WRC 2 rounds.