A close battle was the essence of this year’s Rally Sweden for the ruling WRC 2 champion and last year’s winner Pontus Tidemand. The excitement lasted the whole event through and the outcome was not decided until the very last stage. “Fantastic rally in super conditions. I’m pleased” said the Swede, who finished in second place.
A flying start in front of huge crowds at the trotting track in Karlstad on Thursday evening kicked off SKODA driver Pontus Tidemand and co-driver Jonas Andersson’s Rally Sweden. They started the first proper day with a small lead and immediately got tough competition from their fellow contestants. The Swedish duo did their last rally in October last year and decided to begin carefully to build up their pace stage by stage.
After Friday’s stages they had climbed to second place and put pressure on the leading Japanese Takamoto Katsuta, with Ole Christian Veiby just behind them. The intense top fight continued on Saturday and Pontus gave everything he could to reach the top, but the loose road surface turned out to be the toughest competitor.
“We did our best and pushed where it was possible, that’s all we could do in that situation” said Pontus. “We got so much support from the spectators and it was amazing to see so many Swedish flags on Colin’s Crest. That made us want to fight until the last meter, for our home crowd.”
With only three special stages left on the final day, Pontus made an effort to catch the Japanese. He reduced the gap drastically, but it wasn’t enough to advance on the leaderboard.
“We made one last attempt to challenge him but the 50 kilometers was too little and we had to realize that we couldn’t do more” said Pontus, who was the fastest in the WRC 2 on Sunday’s first stage.
After the nine kilometer short but demanding Power Stage, Pontus secured second place at his season premiere and takes many positives with him towards the rest of the year.
“I’m pleased with the event and with the championship point of course. We need them to be able to reach our goal of defending the title. We didn’t hold back or just controlled our position, we really fought and that is something we will take with us, just like the fact that we didn’t have any incidents or made any mistakes. I’m also happy with our speed. If you compare our speed with how much we lose to the WRC cars per kilometer, you see that we are closer than we’ve ever been since the new cars came. I think that’s a proof of progress and that we are on the right track.”
Katsuta won the WRC 2 category by four and a half seconds and Pontus’ team-mate Ole Christian Veiby took third place, half a minute behind the Japanese.
“Katsuta made an incredible performance this weekend and had the margins on his side. Hats off to him” said Pontus.