Rally de Portugal is one of the most techically challenging events in the FIA World Rally Championship. That didn’t stop 23 year old Swede Pontus Tidemand from scoring a podium finish in his debut rally with an M-Sport run Ford Fiesta R5. After both sensible driving and demonstration of his capacity under pressure, Pontus landed a third place when the event ended on Sunday.
“I’m very happy with the result” says Pontus after the final stage. “We came here with the goal to gather experience from the event itself and to get safely through the debut with the R5, but of course you always aim for the top regardless. We began to drive wisely to avoid risks and since everything worked well we could do a little push towards the end to secure third place.”
Rally de Portugal started on Thursday evening and began with a super special stage in Lisbon. Pontus and co-driver Ola Fløene was immediately at it and set the fourth fastest time, just 1.4 seconds behind the leaders.
But the real task didn’t begin until Friday. Six stages awaited during the day, all over 20 km, and the massive rain earlier in the week made the road conditions muddy and slippery. Pontus quickly picked up a good pace and managed to stay in the leaderboard top three throughout the day.
Pontus continued his clever driving on Saturday as well, set even stage times and he felt like the event developed in the right direction. Despite the tough competition among the 20 cars in the WRC 2 category, Pontus had a good grip of third place and didn’t plan on letting go of it. Towards the end of the day, Estonian Karl Kruuda began to take some time and when the day was finished, they were separated by as little as 4.4 seconds.
On Sunday, Pontus reacted to the pressure from Kruuda to defend his third place. Already after the morning’s first stage, Pontus had extended the time difference and on following stage he showed his capacity by taking a stage win with a time that was over seven seconds faster than the runner-up. After the final stage, it was clear that Pontus had managed to finish on the podium in his first Rally de Portugal in a four wheel drive car and had begun his WRC 2 season in an impressive way.
“The biggest challenge for us was to get to know the new car” says Pontus. “Rally Portugal is so techinical that it might not be optimal for getting familiar with a new car, but we have had the good progresstion I wanted during the weekend. Both Ketomaa and Al-Attiyah who were ahead of us have been incredibly fast but I’m glad that we could keep a decent pace and be as competitive as we were.”
The next target is Rally d Italia Sardegna and with the backup from EVEN Management and Tätab, it looks promising. After that, another four or five rounds in the WRC 2 catogory are planned and Pontus looks forward to continue his journey:
“I’m definitely positive when it comes to the rest of the season. We’ve got more to work on, but with proper preparation and testing before every event, I’m sure we can do well.”
Results Vodafone Rally de Portugal WRC 2 top 5
1. Nasser Al-Attiyah (QAT) 3:43:35.1
2. Jari Ketomaa (FIN) +11.6
3. Pontus Tidemand (SWE) +2:07.0
4. Karl Kruuda (EST) +2:20.9
5. Bernardo Sousa (PRT) +3:10.3