The FIA Asia-Pacific Rally Championship (APRC) season has been a story of success for the Swedish rally talent Pontus Tidemand. In the sixth and final round in China this past weekend, the newly crowned APRC champion was on top of the podium again – just a week after his WRC 2 win in Spain – and took his fifth victory in the championship.
Pontus and co-driver Emil Axelsson put on a real show from the first meter of China Rally Longyou. On Thursday’s opening stage, they were spectacularly quick and set the fastest time on the almost two kilometer long super special.
When the first proper stage kicked off on Saturday morning, Pontus had an 2.6 second advantage over his SKODA/MRF colleague and 2013 APRC champion Gaurav Gill. Pontus kept the upper hand, but the revenge-hungry Gill was not far behind. Just as the fight between the two started to get fiercer, Gill crashed heavily on the fourth stage of the day and his weekend came to an end with more than half the event left.
Pontus continued to consistently extend his lead over the three remaining stages and on Saturday evening, the time difference to New Zealander Richard Mason in second place, was almost six minutes. Despite the big lead, tackling the roads of Longyou was no easy task and Pontus had to work hard on each test.
“I must say that it was a huge challenge. I drove these stages for the first time and the roads were tricky and demanding in themselves, but with mud and rain, they got extremely slippery and difficult to get through. We were as careful as we could in order to survive the day and steered the car as steadily as possible” said Pontus, who also praised his SKODA Fabia R5 for running perfectly even in the toughest conditions.
The conditions were so difficult that several of the stages eventually became a safety hazard to the passing crews and had to be cancelled. The APRC drivers on the other hand, were lucky enough to be able to complete all six stages on Saturday’s itinerary.
Sunday was the longest day of the rally with six stages totaling 123.60 km compared to Saturday’s 106.44 km. Just like the previous day, Pontus stayed in control, mastered the complicated road conditions and extended his lead even further for each stage. On Sunday afternoon local time, he took his 13th stage win out of 13 possible and crossed the finish line as the winner of China Rally Longyou 2015.
“This victory was far from a walk in the park” commented Pontus. “We have consumed enormous amounts of focus this weekend. To have a good lead is positive of course, although it was a shame to not get that close fight with Gill. But this time I actually think that the roads have been our biggest competition. If you lose your concentration for just a brief moment, you can slide off the road and get stuck in a ditch and suddenly your advantage is gone.”
Pontus has had a brilliant debut season in the Asia-Pacific Rally Championship for SKODA Motorsport. He has won five of the events in the series (New Zealand, Australia, Malaysia, Japan and Kina) and finished second in the sixth (New Caledonia). With these top results, he could secure the championship title already after the Japanese round and came to China as a newly crowned champion.
“I’m incredibly happy with the season in Asia and Oceania and it feels really great to finish on top here in China. APRC has been an adventure since the first event in April and I have had experiences that I could not have got anywhere else and I will always have those experiences with me. SKODA has given me the best possible opportunities to succeed and the MRF team and Emil has done a superb job all year” said a grateful Pontus after the podium ceremony.
The last competitive day also claimed its victims and Pontus got a massive victory margin of over 30 minutes with Japanese Hitoshi Takayama in second place while Michael Young from New Zealand finished third.