Pontus Tidemand showed impressive speed and mature driving in his ŠKODA Fabia R5 at this weekend’s round of the FIA World Rally Championship. After mastering the 18 special stages, he finished second in WRC 2 and took his fifth podium out of five possible as a ŠKODA Motorsport driver.
Poland offered what might have been the warmest days of the year when the weekend’s WRC round kicked off. Wet and muddy roads was not a problem this time, but dust walls and the extreme heat gave the crews an extra challenge during the four competitive days.
After a great start on Thursday’s opening spectator stage, where Pontus was second fastest in his class, the first full-length stages awaited on Friday. Although he remained in the top fight, Pontus was not entirely happy with his driving and struggled to find the right feeling. With eight special stages without service break, he and co-driver Emil Axelsson did all they could to pick up their pace. They improved during the day, but you quickly lose time on Poland’s super fast stages and the time difference to the leading Finn Esapekka Lappi was 50 seconds by the end of the day. But Pontus could still be pleased about taking his first stage wins in WRC 2 for ŠKODA and also setting the third fastest time overall on Friday evening’s super special, with most of the WRC cars behind him.
All the pieces fell into place on the following day. Pontus felt more comfortable with his driving and really showed his capacity when he challenged his teammate Lappi. But the fact remained – the time gap to Lappi was a bit too big to do anything about just by driving fast.
“We started the day with an even bigger gap to Esapekka and realistically it is very difficult to catch if nothing unexpected happens” said Pontus. “But it is a part of this sport, it is what makes rallying both challenging and interesting. We took some time and that was the best we could do in this situation.”
Pontus ended Saturday with another superb time on the Mikolajki Arena super special, only 1.9 seconds behind the fastest time in the WRC. In the WRC 2 category, he had a solid second place, 37 seconds from the lead and with nearly a minute and a half to Estonian Karl Kruuda in third place.
The last day of the rally included just one stage that was run twice and with quite big time differences both in front and behind, Pontus kept fully focused on getting the car to the finish in a controlled way without taking any risks. The plan went off without a hitch and at lunchtime on Sunday, he could secure second place and take his second WRC 2 podium for ŠKODA Motorsport in addition to his three top results in the FIA Asia-Pacific Rally Championship.
“What a fantastic weekend for ŠKODA! It cannot get any more perfect than 1-2 and it says a lot about the team and the cars we drive. Esapekka deserves this win and I am absolutely happy with our result, although it would have been even more fun to have a close fight until the finish. We got a real speed and endurance test with our Fabia R5 and we have really enjoyed these fast roads. In our last WRC 2 event, we finished third and now second so it goes in the right direction. If the trend lasts, we should win next time” says Pontus with a big smile.
The next event in Pontus’ calendar is Rally Finland, another WRC event known for high speed. It takes place between 30 July and 2 August.
Rally Poland WRC 2 top 5
1. Esapekka Lappi (FIN) 2:32.02.6
2. Pontus Tidemand (SWE) +56.1
3. Karl Kruuda (EST) +2:05.3
4. Jari Ketomaa (FIN) +4:54.1
5. Armin Kremer (DEU) +5:11.9