A tough fight was expected and a tough fight was what it turned out to be when all the WRC 2 crews went head to head at the Portuguese WRC round. Pontus Tidemand made a focused effort from start and it looked like he was going to secure second place. But a dramatic last stage changed the outcome and Pontus was crowned winner.
“We’ve had a great start to our season with the fourth victory now and we are really happy about that. The championship is our target and to get as many points as possible from each event is the most important thing. But this weekend, our victory is a bit bittersweet since this is not the way you want to win. Andreas has been incredibly quick and I feel sorry for him” said Pontus, referring to his SKODA and EVEN Management team-mate Andreas Mikkelsen, who was leading when he had to retire on the 19th and final stage.
Pontus and his experienced co-driver Jonas Andersson mixed in with the top three as soon as Rally Portugal kicked off with a spectator stage on Thursday. While Mikkelsen took the lead, Pontus and Finnish Teemu Suninen got into an intense battle for second place. They were equally fast on Friday as well as Saturday and fought for the precious seconds on every stage. As if the thriller was not exciting enough, both of them picked up a puncture on Saturday’s last stage. Thanks to a quick tyre change, Pontus got a grip of second place with a 19 seconds’ gap to Suninen in third.
“The roads in Portugal are rocky and rough, especially on the second pass, and you can easily get a puncture if you’re on a push” explained Pontus. “This time we were pretty lucky that it didn’t really affect our positions so we could keep the excitement until the final day.”
The plan for Sunday’s closing four stages was to give all in order to keep Suninen behind. Pontus found a great pace and it looked like the outcome was settled going into the last stage. But things can change quickly in rally and after a roll, Mikkelsen did not reach the finish line, which meant that the Swedish duo took the win.
“This weekend came with big challenges” said Pontus. “The most difficult one was to go from driving in a safe and controlled way like we did last time in Argentina, to having to push and be closer to the limit here. It took a while to get into it but being in close battle motivates you and makes you grow as a driver so I enjoyed it.”
So far, Pontus and Jonas have been unbeatable in this year’s WRC 2 championship and after scoring maximum points at another event, they extend their overall lead. They currently have a 46 points’ lead with Teemu Suninen closest behind them.
“To increase our lead feels really good. We are only half way through the championship but you need to be at it from start to stand a chance. Big thanks to the team who always does a fantastic job and makes sure that our car is 110 percent at each rally. Without them we wouldn’t be able to deliver results like these” said a pleased and grateful Pontus.