When Rally Sweden kicks off this weekend, it is also the start of Pontus Tidemand’s WRC 2 season for SKODA Motorsport. The Swedish rally star makes his fifth WRC start on home soil and despite the lack of snow, he promises action in the forests.
The weather changes over the past week caused major problems for the organizers of Rally Sweden, who together with the FIA, WRC Promoter and the teams were forced to make some changes in the itinerary. The ice has melted away in many sections of the roads and left them soft, muddy and in too poor condition to currently be able to withstand a large number of rally cars. But a solution came when the forecast for the weekend promised colder temperatures so now the event is back on – with a few cancelled stages and no historic class. As it looks now, 240 of the original 321 km can be run.
“Of course it’s disappointing that we probably won’t get a classic Rally Sweden with snow banks and a white landscape, but we can’t change the weather. All respect to the organizers who work hard to make this rally happen after all, now it’s up to competitors and spectators to make the best of it and turn it into the winter festival it always is” says Pontus.
Pontus was in Monte Carlo and did the reconnaissance as good practice for the future, but Rally Sweden will be his first rally start for the season. He has also a new co-driver by his side – Jonas Andersson, who comes with years of WRC experience. The two have known each other for a long time and so far they have done a couple of tests together, but never competed. The latest of these tests was on Monday in the north of Värmland county , where they made their last preparations for the weekend.
“Everything worked well at the test” says Pontus. “I feel comfortable with the car and Jonas read the pacenotes perfectly so our teamwork is definitely coming together. However, it is difficult to say anything about the roads as it most likely will be different on the stages. But we are really excited to get going.”
2015 was a very successful year for Pontus. Not only did he take the title in the Asia-Pacific Rally Championship after winning five out of six events, he also scored podiums in almost every WRC 2 event he took part in, including a victory in Spain. This year he focuses fully on WRC 2 and he hopes to be able to give SKODA Motorsport another title to add to the collection.
“It is special to start the season in Sweden and it would be really fun to get a good result, especially since this is my and Jonas’ first event and on home soil with families, friends and partners supporting us. We will base our tactics on the feeling with the car and the surface. If everything feels good, we will push and then I think we have a good chance, but we also have the championship in the back of our minds. There are lots of competitors, including several privateers, who will show speed and maybe not have to think about the big picture. To get points are important to us so we won’t take any unnecessary risks.”
Rally Sweden was supposed to start with shakedown on Thursday morning, followed by the traditional super special on the Färjestad track in Karlstad. Both have now been cancelled, but the start ceremony and the show is scheduled to run as planned on Thursday evening. The first special stage has to wait until Friday morning and as long as the weather gets colder, only the first super special, the Kirkenaer stage and the Hagfors Sprint stage need to be cancelled completely. This means that the rally crosses the border to Norway on Friday and continues in the forests of Värmland in Sweden on Saturday, where the famous Vargåsen stage with Colin’s Crest is the highlight of the day. On Sunday, which is the last day of the rally, the final stages awaits before the finish in Karlstad.
Photo: Håkan Strandman