The conditions during the WRC weekend in Corsica was described by many as the most difficult in years in the championship. After a stunning start in the heavy rain, SKODA Motorsport’s Pontus Tidemand took the WRC 2 lead, but a few hours later, his event took an abrupt turn and became a problematic experience until Pontus eventually was forced to retire on the penultimate stage of the rally.
The rain struck the Mediterranean island, which had not had rain in five months, already on Thursday and developed overnight to a ‘medicane’ as the violent storms in the area are called. Corsica has not experienced a storm like this since 1983 and that obviously affected the rally with flooding and damaged roads.
It was still raining heavily when the crews headed toward the first stage of three on Friday morning. The conditions were extremely difficult and many described it as the worst thing they had seen when it comes to rallying. Pontus, who was fastest in shakedown and started the event with a positive feeling, made it through the nearly 30 km long stage without incidents and set the quickest time in the WRC 2 class.
“I can definitely not say that it was easy with these kinds of road conditions” explained Pontus. “But the car worked well on the surface and we had pretty good speed when exiting the corners. Despite that it was difficult to know how fast we were going, the answer came when we reached the finish and got our time.”
Shortly after that, the second stage had to be cancelled due to damages from the storm. With that, the longest test of the day disappeared and only one stage remained. Pontus started at the same pace as on the previous stage and was by far fastest on the first split time when the weekend made a quick turnaround. A lot of standing water on a fast straight caused aquaplaning and the car hit a rock wall that bordered the road. It broke the suspension and even though Pontus and his co-driver Emil Axelsson could fix it temporarily with the spare parts they had in the car, it took more than 10 minutes so the clever decision was to retire for the day.
“It was a big disappointment” said Pontus. “Everything went perfectly and it felt like we were onto something really good, but we had no chance when the aquaplaning got us.”
Pontus was back in business on Saturday, but the first of the day’s three stages had been cancelled so they were left with just two stages again. Since he started far back in the field due to the retirement, he had to deal with mud, gravel and stones that the previous cars had dragged out on the road and it was almost impossible to keep the pace he wanted. He drove as controlled as he could, but still he caught a puncture on the second and last stage of the day.
On Sunday, he started in twelfth place with the goal of making it into top ten. After setting a great time on stage seven, it looked promising but on the following stage, everything came to a stop. The slippery mud in a corner made him slide into a deep ditch and with no chance of getting the car back up on the road, he was forced to retire from this year’s Tour de Corse with only one stage to go.
“This really was not our weekend” said a disappointed Pontus. “Unfortunately you have to have less successful events once in a while in rallying, although you never get used to it. When you are in the middle of it all, you just want to keep fighting on every stage. But we still have positive things to take with us from this, first and foremost that our Fabia R5 worked like a charm and that it went really well on the stages where we did not have any problems, but also the experience. Luckily, it is not too often that you drive in conditions like this, but it definitely is good practice.”
Until now, Pontus has performed on top and finished on the podium at every event this year, both in the WRC 2 and in Asia-Pacific Rally Championship, where he recently took the champion title with one rally to go in the series.
“Maybe it has gone too well this season so it was about time to even it out” said Pontus with a smile. “We will come back stronger and I’m looking forward to the next WRC 2 event in Spain in three weeks. We still have a shot at the overall podium so now we really need to fight for it. Hopefully we got rid of all the bad luck this weekend!”