With three wins of three possible so far in this year’s WRC 2 championship, rally ace Pontus Tidemand has a grip of the overall lead. Next up is the compulsory Rally Portugal and with all WRC 2 drivers on the start line, the competition is stronger than ever and it is set for a close battle. “This might be one of the most important events of the year” said Pontus.
After nothing but top performances at the first events of the season, SKODA duo Pontus Tidemand and co-driver Jonas Andersson will face new challenges as the FIA World Rally Championship takes on the European gravel. Three of this year’s WRC 2 events are compulsory – Rally Portugal is the first one of those three and will be followed by Rallye Deutschland and Wales Rally GB later on.
It is a well prepared and excited Pontus that travels to Portugal with good memories from previous years – he has finished on the podium all five times that he has competed at the event and has taken two victories; 2013 in the Junior WRC and last year in the WRC 2.
“Rally Portugal is a rally that I look forward to every year” said Pontus. “The atmosphere is always fantastic and some of Europe’s most enthusiastic rally fans line up along the stages. The fact that we have done well here previously gives us confidence, just like knowing that we have delivered so far this season, but this time it will definitely be a fight out of the ordinary with several possible winners. I think this will be one of the most important events of the year.”
As one of the most popular rallies of its kind, Rally Portugal has been named ‘Best Rally in the World’ on five occasions and the huge crowds grow every year, especially at the well-known and classic Fafe stage, which runs on the final day. The rally has its base in the city of Porto and during the four competitive days, 19 special stages that together measure almost 350 kilometers will be mastered. With a soft road surface based on sand and clay, grip is a crucial factor and to make the right tyre choices is one of the biggest challenges. The weather is also very unpredictable and the teams and drivers must be prepared for all conditions.
“The roads are mostly technical with lots of corners at the same time as there are some fast sections and stages. But just like in Mexico and Argentina, you need to avoid rocks, especially on the second pass, and you need to use your head just as much as your right foot to get a strong result. We aim to mix in with the top fight and do our best to look after our championship lead. How big risks we are willing to take is something we have to decide as we go along” said Pontus.
Rally Portugal starts on Thursday evening with a Super Special on the Lousada rallycross track, continues with two long competitive days on Friday and Saturday, and the four last stages awaits on Sunday morning.