After a massively impressive performance on Rally Portugal’s nearly 370 kilometers, SKODA Motorsport’s Pontus Tidemand secured the WRC 2 victory after the 19th and last special stage was completed. Despite a puncture, he proved himself unbeatable as he fought back to the lead.
“This was the best that could happen” said a pleased Pontus after the last stage. “We have had our ups and downs this weekend but most importantly, we have done everything we can and worked hard to get a good result. It feels really great to finish on top of the podium. To win by over a minute after losing just as much is not something you do every day.”
It was a determined Pontus that jumped into his SKODA Fabia R5 when Rally Portugal kicked off on Thursday evening. He immediately took the lead on the opening super special and continued to build his advantage during Friday. On the longest stage of the day (27.44 km), he pulled away from Elfyn Evans with 16.1 seconds and then followed another five stage wins. By the end of Friday’s programme, Pontus had over half a minute’s lead.
With the longest day of the rally in front of them, Pontus and his co-driver Jonas Andersson was off to a bit more careful start on Saturday – still they extended their lead. On the longest stage of the entire event (37.67 km), Evans was forced to retire at the same time as Pontus and Jonas set a stunning time on the same stage and was not just quickest in their class, but also seventh fastest overall. After that, their lead over Peruvian Nicolás Fuchs had increased to more than a minute and a half. It would have been a comfortable time difference if it had not been for a puncture, which cost the Swedish duo their advantage despite a quick and efficient tyre change. Before Saturday’s last stage they were in second place, 2.6 seconds behind Fuchs. But after one last push, they took back the lead in a brilliant way and found themselves with a gap of 32 seconds ahead of the final four stages.
“We are happy that we had a lead as big as we had when we caught that puncture, otherwise our chances for victory might have been wiped away” said Pontus. “Now we could quickly fight back to the top position and also have an okay margin to not have to push too hard on the last stages.”
On Sunday, Pontus conserved his lead. Fully concentrated on the task, they made it to the finish without any drama – but to watch over an advantage in a situation like this is also somewhat a challenge.
“The most difficult thing about having a gap to the rest of the competitors is that you can not take any risks, but you can not back off too much either because then the car will not work properly and you can easily make a mistake.”
The victory margin eventually measured one minute and 28.8 seconds and in addition to his top performance in the WRC 2, Pontus also mixed in with the WRC cars. He was eighth overall before the puncture. Despite the time loss, he finished ninth in the overall classification and all in all, he took nine stage wins in his category.
“We have been testing a lot lately and I have been very pleased with the car” said Pontus. “That is something that has been crucial for this result today. We have also got a great team with both SKODA and EVEN Management and they are supporting us during and in between events, which gives us a chance to completely focus on our performance.”
With this event, Pontus and Jonas have begun their hunt for the championship title for real and have now two podiums from the two rallies that they have done in the series so far – the first of them was a second place at Rally Sweden.