Pontus Tidemand leaves the gravel roads behind when it is time for his first WRC rally on asphalt for the season. Rally Germany is an event with difficult, sometimes even feared, challenges that can catch even the most experienced driver. Precision, courage and ability to quickly adapt to new conditions are needed. Pontus has mastered it before and is ready to once again tackle the German roads, for the first time with a SKODA Fabia R5.
At the two previous WRC events in Poland and Finland, it has been all about high speed on gravel roads that invites you to go flat out. Now it all changes as the WRC circus reaches Germany for the most demanding asphalt rally of the fall in such varied environments and different surfaces that it appears as three separate events in one weekend.
Rally Germany offers special stages through the Mosel vineyards that require technical skills and do not leave room for any mistakes. They contain many junctions that can easily confuse the drivers and it is not unusual that the roads have a rock wall on one side and a steep drop on the other side. There are also classic stages on smooth country roads and fast sections in the Eifel hills, near the border to Luxembourg. In contrast to these road types, the drivers will visit the military area Panzerplatte for three sprint stages and two runs on the longest stage of the rally (40 km). That is where some of the most daunting challenges await – slippery concrete sections that might destroy the tyres and large rocks, known as ‘Hinkelstein’, which are designed to stop tanks.
“The German rally is very special when it comes to surface since it changes quite a lot and you constantly have to adjust your driving style accordingly. There is a big difference between narrow, bumpy roads with many hairpins, open roads that almost feel like motorways and the military area with concrete slabs and big kerb stones that you definitely do not want to get too close to. The weather can also quickly change the conditions so you have to be alert and expect the unexpected” said Pontus, who, despite the difficulties, has good memories from Rally Germany – in 2013, the same year that he took the Junior World Rally Champion title, he won the JWRC class and in 2014 he scored his first WRC 2 victory here.
Pontus and his co-driver Jonas Andersson began their WRC 2 season with a second place in Sweden and a victory in Portugal. In Poland, they were in the lead when a technical problem ruined their podium chances, but they still managed to fight back and score points. In Finland, they were in the top fight after a stunning performance when they were forced to retire on the very last stage, where they ended up upside down after a close encounter with a tree. They are in fifth place in the overall championship standings and still have good chances of climbing the leaderboard in the remaining events. This weekend in Germany, they do not compete for championship points, but Pontus still sees it as a valuable chance to continue the great progress that he has shown throughout the year.
“This rally is not a part of my WRC 2 program for the season, but I’m very grateful that SKODA Motorsport and EVEN Management gives me the opportunity to compete here anyway” said Pontus. “I know how important it is to get experience in order to succeed in the future, especially in a technically demanding event as this, and now we also get a chance to maintain our competitive speed for the upcoming events.”
To adjust from gravel to asphalt is a challenge for all the participants, but many of the WRC 2 drivers are considered tarmac specialists and will put up a tough fight. Despite this being Pontus and Jonas’ first WRC event on asphalt for the season, they have done two rallies in the Czech championship, where they reached the podium both times. They also had a test day in Austria last week and feel as ready as can be.
“We come to Germany without any pressure on us, but no matter if we chase points or not, we still look at this rally in the same way as the other events. We want to get a result as good as possible and it is not a secret that we still want to challenge our competitors. But it will be really tough” said Pontus.
The event begins with shakedown and a ceremonial start in the hosting city of Trier on Thursday, then three intensive competitive days await the crews. Over 300 km, divided into 18 special stages will be completed before the Sunday finish.