Pontus Tidemand continues his successful season – at this weekend’s round of the FIA Asia-Pacific Championship, International Rally of Queensland, he took his second win for ŠKODA Motorsport in the championship and he also extends his overall lead in the series.
The Australian Sunshine Coast showed its best side when International Rally of Queensland started on Saturday morning. But despite the sunshine, the roads were slippery and damp in many places, especially in the shade from the trees. Pontus, who took part in the event for the first time, began his weekend with solid runs and set good times. Even though he caught a puncture, he did not lose more than a few seconds and kept his position.
“The roads were more tricky than I expected” said Pontus. “But I like a challenge and they were really fun to drive. I was not completely satisfied with the early stages, but the afternoon loop felt a lot better and we took quite some time.”
When Saturday’s tenth and final stage was completed, Pontus and his experienced co-driver Emil Axelsson were only 4.6 seconds behind leading Gaurav Gill, which was set for an epic battle between the two MRF teammates on the last day of the rally.
With the main objective to not take any risks in order to not jeopardize a good result, Pontus still managed to put pressure on Gill on Sunday. After the first three of the day’s eight stages, he took the rally lead and increased it gradually during the day. With only three stages to go, Gill got engine problems and had to retire while Pontus handled his big lead with clever driving and took the win by a four minute margin.
“I have enjoyed being in Australia so much and I am incredibly happy that we took the victory here” said Pontus after the finish. “We have had a couple of small issues during the weekend, like the puncture and problems with the rear suspension, but it was solved quickly thanks to our skilled team and other than that everything has been working exactly as it should. Even if you know how important it is to reach the finish, you get really excited when you are in a close battle like the one we had with Gill. I am impressed with his pace this weekend so it was disappointing that we did not get to fight all the way.”
Altogether, Pontus and his ŠKODA Fabia Super 2000 took as many as 12 stage wins out of 18, which gives him additional points to those he got for the win. After the third round he has scored a total of 108 points. Behind him is Gill with 74 points and in third place Leyraud with 56 points.
The FIA Asia-Pacific Rally Championship now takes a summer break, but is back in mid August with the fourth round, which takes place in Malaysia.
APRC International Rally of Queensland top 5
1. Pontus Tidemand (SWE) 02:01:23.8
2. Michael Young (NZL) +04:01.2
3. Subhan Aksa (IDN) +06:37.0
4. Eli Evans (AUS) 07:05.6
5. Jean-Louis Leyraud (NCL) 10:26.8
Championship standings after round three
1. Tidemand 108 points
2. Gill 74
3. Leyraud 56
4. Young 55
5. Aksa 43
Photo: Geoff Ridder