Swedish rally ace Pontus Tidemand is back in the FIA World Rally Championship after the summer and continues the hunt for the WRC 2 title. A brand new challenge awaits him in Turkey and the goal is set high as usual – Pontus aims to take back the championship lead and secure his 31st podium at his 44th WRC start.
SKODA Motorsport and EVEN Management’s Pontus Tidemand has impressed big so far this season. Three victories and a second place quickly placed him in the championship lead and despite not having competed since May, he is second in the overall standings, only seven points behind his SKODA team-mate Jan Kopecký who currently tops the leaderboard. But being away from rallies during the summer does not mean that Pontus has had time off, more the opposite.
“I’ve had an intense schedule over the summer with important ‘behind the scenes’ work” said Pontus. “Pretty much every week I’ve been testing at different locations in Europe and I’ve spent a lot of time behind the wheel on various surfaces. Although I haven’t been in competitive mode, I have gotten extremely valuable kilometers and when testing, you constantly develop as a driver while waiting to pick up the season again.”
Next on the programme is Rally Turkey, which comes with a new challenge – not just for Pontus and his co-driver Jonas Andersson, but for all teams since the event has never been run in this part of the country before. The rally was part of the world rally championship between 2003 and 2010 and now that it is back with the base in the city of Marmaris, all teams start from scratch with no previous experience.
“Of course there’s a challenge in not knowing what to expect, but I like this kind of challenge when everything is fair and square and the outcome is completely open as we all come here with a blank piece of paper. I’ve heard that we are facing a mix of smooth, fast roads and rough gravel roads in the mountains where you really need to concentrate. The reconnaissance is very crucial and as soon as we know the stages a bit, we can start forming attack and tyre strategies” said Pontus.
Rally Turkey has a compact programme where the special stages are close to each other and there will not be many moments for the competitive crews to relax during the weekend. The rally kicks off on Thursday evening and starts with a 2.45 kilometer long street stage in the hosting city. Friday is the longest day of the event with six stages totalling 145 kilometers, while Saturday includes just as many stages, but they are 100 kilometers shorter. The four last stages run on Sunday morning with the finish next to the service park. All in all, Rally Turkey measures over 300 kilometers, divided into 17 special stages.
“It’s no secret that we want to defend the WRC 2 champion title and the goal for the weekend is definitely to take back the lead. Many skilled drivers come to start, but right now Jan (Kopecký) is our biggest competition. We always go for the victory and I love close fights so I’m hoping for a battle that brings out the best in all of us” said Pontus.