This is his eighth start at his home event Rally Sweden and 28-year-old Pontus Tidemand is excited to take on the classic winter challenge on frozen roads. He is finally behind the wheel of a dream car and with the support from the loyal rally fans, he is ready to fight for a good result.
“This is definitely the rally I look forward to all year round and it is a childhood dream come true every time I’m on the start line. I’m coming here with a great feeling, I’m beginning to learn the car and I already feel at home in the team. The fact that I get to do this in the most awesome car I have ever driven, knowing that my fantastic home crowd is cheering on me, that makes it something special this year” said Pontus, who grew up just an hour from the rally base in Torsby in Värmland county.
It is only a month since Pontus and his experienced co-driver Ola Fløene made their debut with the new Ford Fiesta WRC for M-Sport at Rallye Monte-Carlo. As one of the most complex rallies in the WRC series, it was a demanding event, but also a valuable warm-up for Pontus, who focused on getting experience and become familiar with everything that was new to him.
“To go from the R5 that I drove previously to this WRC Fiesta is a huge adjustment and just get a feel for it is a process in itself. It was kind of a speed shock to begin with and you can really feel the power and the potential in the car. But you have to learn everything to be able to use it properly and that was something that we were well aware of. So that we got to do Monte Carlo was very important and gave us the foundation that we stand on now ahead of Rally Sweden” said Pontus.
Rally Sweden is the only real winter rally in the WRC and the cars speed through the Swedish and Norwegian forests on frozen roads. The studded tyres provide remarkable grip and makes this one of the fastest rounds in the championship – but at the same time, the studs can tear up the road surface, expose gravel and rip the studs off the tyres, which leaves them with little traction. The snow banks that line the roads can guide the cars round the corners, but they also come with a big risk of getting stuck.
“It’s all about staying out of trouble” said Pontus. “If you make a mistake, you cannot catch the lost time by driving fast. You need to avoid mistakes, have clean stages and go flat out from the first meter to stand a chance.”
The action starts traditionally with a grand opening ceremony and man-to-man heats at Karlstad trotting track on Thursday evening. It is followed by three days of classic rally stages, more or less in the same format as in 2018. The biggest news is that the spectacular Rämmen stage is back and runs in the opposite direction, while the Röjden stage has been shortened. Popular spectator favorites like Vargåsen with Colin’s Crest and the Torsby stage next to the service park run just like previous years.
Although Pontus arrives to Torsby with a great feeling, he knows that he is facing quite a challenge. His competitors are vastly experienced and the performance level is higher than ever, but Pontus and Ola are motivated and aim to be competitive and hope to fight for good stage times.
“The will is there. We are very hungry and we really want a good result. We have done a lot of analyzing since Monte Carlo and we know that we can keep up with the others on many stages, especially on snow and ice. We have also spent much time and energy on video and note training and been as thorough as possible in our preparations. Theoretically, everyone has a chance to succeed, including us. Now we just need to take this with us into the car, do our best to perform as well as possible. And then we will see how far it takes us in the battle with the other brutal drivers” said Pontus with a smile.