After four years as a regular in the WRC 2 series, including a champion title in the category, the chance that Swedish rally star Pontus Tidemand had been waiting for finally came – to jump into a top specific WRC car and measure up against the elite in the highest class in the FIA World Rally Championship. This weekend, Pontus and his co-driver Ola Fløene make their season debut at Rallye Monte-Carlo in an M-Sport Ford Fiesta WRC.
The French Alps always offer excitement when the WRC season kicks off. To be able to read the roads, react quickly and find a setup and tyres that works on both dry tarmac and winter roads is somewhat a key here. And that key comes with experience.
“I have competed at Rallye Monte-Carlo once and done the reconnaissance twice so I know what to expect. This is a special rally, probably the most unpredictable in the WRC, and experience is so important. Maybe not in terms of learning the roads, more in the way of getting to know the road character and how to handle the different surfaces. Often you can find dry tarmac, snow and ice in the same stage and even if this is a tarmac event, it’s very unique with the changing weather in the mountains” said Pontus, who finished fourth in the RC2 category at his first Rallye Monte-Carlo in 2017.
For Pontus, the season premiere is all about getting to know the car and the team fully and completely, without any pressure or hopes of a podium finish. Next to him in the co-driver’s seat, we will find one of the world’s most experienced co-drivers,Norwegian Ola Fløene, who shared the Junior World Rally Champion title with Pontus back in 2013. Rallye Monte-Carlo is more or less a warm-up, or rehearsal, for what’s to come and Pontus keeps his calm.
“It’s been five years since last time I was in a WRC car and this is a whole new generation’s car. Everything felt fantastic at the first test, I quickly adjusted to it and Ola and I have picked up our teamwork where we left it a few years ago. But after all, this is our debut with this car and I know I need to be realistic about it. I haven’t made it this far to be reckless and try to prove anything. I will take it step by step and really make the most out of this chance” said Pontus.
After many years in the WRC 2, Pontus felt that it was time to take on new challenges and when this opportunity came, he quickly jumped onboard.
“There is so much hard work behind this and I feel extremely grateful towards M-Sport, my partners and everyone that tiredlessly help me and make it possible for me to be on the start line on Thursday” said Pontus. “I’m more motivated than ever and now the time has come. Let’s do this!”
After the start ceremony in the heart of Gap on Thursday, a tough evening awaits the crews at the first WRC event of the year with two new stages, both over 20 kilometers, in the darkness in the southern Alps. 125 kilometers’ action, divided into six stages, are on the programme for Friday, while Saturday’s four stages, measuring 93 kilometers, leads to the final Gap service of the rally. Then the competitors take the long drive from Gap to Monaco, where they wrap up their day. Sunday’s schedule is traditional and includes classic and popular stages, like the pass over Col de Turini before reaching the finish around lunch time.