The cold weather and the snow finally arrived and Rally Sweden got a Swede on the podium. SKODA Motorsport’s Pontus Tidemand showed speed in his Fabia R5 as he aimed for the top positions in WRC and finally secured second place.
Hopes, disappointment, frustation, determination, effort, excitement and last but not least result, joy and celebration. That is how you could sum up the Swedish rally talent Pontus Tidemand’s Rally Sweden weekend. After three somewhat shortened competitive days, he secured second place in the toughest WRC 2 competition in a long time and finally broke the pattern of not scoring at his home event. Neither the victory was far away – Brittish Elfyn Evans won over Pontus by 14.7 seconds.
“Right now it feels great” says Pontus. “During the previous years there has always been something that put a stop to my chances of reaching the podium at Rally Sweden and I just wanted to deliver, especially when I know that the home crowd supports me. The win was not far away, but after a weekend like this, we really put price on the second place.”
The for the season warm weather caused problems for the organizers of the Swedish WRC event. In the beginning of the week, they had to shorten this year’s edition of the rally. Instead of the 21 stages in the original itinerary, 13 would run and only the Vargåsen stage would get a second loop. Colder temperatures came towards the weekend and the ceremonial start took place according to plan on Thursday evening, but the first special stage was not driven until Friday morning.
Pontus, who did his first event with the experienced co-driver Jonas Andersson, was off to a great start even though he was slowed down by a car in front of him. They had a solid spot in the top three when they suddenly got a problem with the rear driveshaft, which left them with only two-wheel-drive and they lost ove 50 seconds. The usually so calm and focused Pontus became noticeable frustrated before the duo, thanks to the mechanical training they have gotten at SKODA’s headquarters, could fix it on the road section.
“For a little while I actually thought it was over and that was the last thing I wanted. I mean, we had just begun! But no matter how disappointed you get in the heat of the moment, you can never give up” says Pontus.
The fight back began immediately and they could finish Friday by taking a stage win.
The goal for Saturday was clear – to catch as much time as possible, but without risk taking. Pontus found a great pace from start and had soon climbed from fourth to second place. His stage times were really good all through the day, but most impressive was his first run on the Vargåsen stage, where Pontus beat the second quickest Evans by almost 11 seconds. Pontus and Jonas also scored a stage win on the super special in Karlstad and was fourth fastest overall – with most of the WRC cars behind them. On Saturday evening, they had caught so much time that the gap to Evans had narrowed down to 17.9 seconds.
During the event, another stage had to be cancelled due to the damages that weather had caused on the road, which meant that only one stage was on the schedule for Sunday. Pontus beat Evans and took another few seconds, but the gap was too big to close. Finnish Teemu Suninen also set an impressive time and passed Pontus in the overall standings with 0.1 seconds and technically moved him to third place – but as Suninen does not compete in the WRC 2, the second place in the class still belongs to Pontus.
“Considering that we lost 55 seconds on Friday, we can not be anything but pleased. We know what we can do, what we could have done and that is what we will take with us to the next event. This weekend has been great fun and I’m so grateful to everyone who has cheered for us along the stages. The roads have also been good despite the difficult conditions so the organizers did a fantastic job. As usual, the team has performed flawlessly and Jonas has read the pacenotes like a world champ. Now I’m even more excited about the rest of the season, this was just the beginning and our competitors will have to watch out for us in Portugal” says Pontus with a smile.
This year, Pontus is focusing fully on the WRC and the next event for him and Jonas is, as mentioned, Rally Portugal, which takes place between 19 and 22 May.