The last event in this year’s Junior World Rally Championship, Rally de Espana, got a premature ending for Pontus Tidemand. Despite that, the recently crowned junior world champion describes his season as “close to perfect” and is pleased with podiums in five of the six events as he looks forward to 2014.
Pontus got an encouraging start in Rally de Espana on Friday evening. He set the fastest time on the first of the three night stages that the first day of the rally consisted of, and continued with two third fastest times. Before the overnight break, he was in third place, not too far behind Suarez and Lemes.
“I think we had a good start” says Pontus. “I counted on Suarez and Lemes being really fast on their home soil, so that was no surprise. But I’m glad we could keep up with their pace as well as we did, it feels like a sign that we’re starting to learn to master different kinds of asphalt roads.”
Saturday picked up where Friday left off, but the hunt of the Spaniards didn’t last for long. On the second stage of the morning, a rock on the inside of a corner caused a roll that damaged the car so badly that a restart on Sunday wasn’t possible. José Suarez, who has been Pontus’ biggest competitor althrough the season, also rolled in the exact same corner and came to an abrupt end of his home rally. Lyckily no one was hurt in the incidents, but Pontus felt the disappointment:
“It’s really sad to not be able to finish the last event. I had been looking forward to a fight this weekend. But I have to say that although it’s a bummer to end the season like this, I’m happy it happened now and not earlier.”
Six events have been included in the Junior WRC season and together with co-driver Ola Fløene, Pontus has performed on top in each event. He has impressed greatly with clever driving and improved asphalt technique as well as a mental strength that keeps him cool in the most stressful situations.
The season began on gravel in Portugal in April and after scooping the win, Pontus took the lead of the championship – a lead that he wouldn’t let go of easily. In Acropolis Rally, he finished second and in the last pure gravel rally, Rally Finland, Pontus ended up in third place and thanks to the stage win points, he extended his overall lead.
In late August, it was time for the second half of the season, now on asphalt. Pontus took his first JWRC win on the surface in Rallye Deutschland and six weeks later he also won Rallye de France at the same time as he secured the championship and was crowned Junior World Champion. The goal for this year’s last rally was to finish in top three as that would have given Pontus full house of JWRC podiums, but that chance disappeared with the retirement. Despite that, Pontus has all the reasons to be pleased with his second international season – five podiums out of six possible, including three victories, 26 stage wins and last but not least the prestigious title.
“It has been a close to perfect season for us” says Pontus. “Our goals were set high from the beginning and we really wanted to take home the championship. I knew it wouldn’t be easy with the hard competition in the class, but we’ve had a plan with careful preparations for each event and fantastic people around us who have helped making it all come together. It turned out to be a winning concept.”
Ola Fløene, who previously was co-driver for WRC driver and two time IRC champion Andreas Mikkelsen, is also pleased with his and Pontus’ season:
“Pontus and I already knew each other, but this year we’ve obviously gotten to know each other much better and we’ve formed a very good team work. The competition in JWRC has been tougher than I expected and I’m so happy that we finished as winners. It’s been incredibly fun to experience this and I believe that Pontus has a great future ahead of him.”
The successful investment in Junior WRC would not have been possible without the support from EVEN Management and Tätab, and Pontus’ JWRC victory also marked Norwegian EVEN Management’s third international title in three years.
“Pontus has managed to benefit from the experience of last year and at the same time understood the importance of being properly prepared for each rally. This, in combination with an experienced co-driver, has helped Pontus showing a maturity and stability that you rarely see in young drivers. I’m looking forward to see what the future holds for Pontus, I think he can reach far” says Erik Veiby, Pontus’ manager and one of the owners of EVEN Management.
Exactly what 2014 will look like for Pontus has not been decided, but the JWRC win gives him six pre-paid events in a Ford Fiesta R2 in WRC, and Pontus has already begun to think about his goals for the upcoming year:
“My main goal for next season is to continue developing, gather experience for the future by driving as much as possible in addition to the programme I have through the JWRC win and hopefully establish myself stronger as a professional driver.”
Photo 1: McKlein
Photo 2: André Lavadinho