After a brilliant WRC debut with ŠKODA’s Fabia R5 a month ago, it is now time for the sequel for the 24-year-old Swede Pontus Tidemand. This weekend he competes at Rally Poland, a WRC event that he has never done before, but with a good feeling in the pit of his stomach, he hopes to once again offer his opponents tough competition.
Pontus, who makes his first season as a works driver for ŠKODA Motorsport, definitely has a busy year. He participates in the FIA Asia-Pacific Rally Championship and half way into the season, he has a good lead in the championship. In addition to the APRC, he also contests selected rounds of the FIA World Rally Championship in the WRC 2 category – the first one was Rally Portugal in the end of May. Even though that was his premiere with ŠKODA’s brand new Fabia R5, Pontus’ performance gave him a podium finish when he came in third. WRC event number two now awaits him in Poland and it is a rally that is relatively new in the WRC calendar and that Pontus takes part in for the first time.
“New rallies are always exciting” said Pontus. “90% of the stages are new compared to last year so the experience is not as crucial here as it is at other events where the same stages has been run year after year. The Polish stages are very fast so you have to keep up with the pace of the quickest drivers from start and not fall too far behind if you want to have a fair chance to succeed.”
Although this will be Pontus first event on Polish soil, he got a taste of the Polish roads when he and his co-driver Emil Axelsson had some intense days of testing in the end of last week.
“The car has been good all along, but ŠKODA is constantly developing it and now it feels better than ever” said Pontus. “We come to Poland with the speed in our bodies, a really great feeling overall and even if we will keep in mind that this is only our second rally with the Fabia R5, we will give everything to make this weekend as good as possible.”
The competition this weekend can best be described as tough. In the big line-up of almost 30 cars in the WRC 2 class, you can find several very quick drivers, among them the current leader in the overall WRC 2 standings, Nasser Al-Attiyah from Qatar. As Poland’s fast roads can be compared with Finland’s high speed roads, one can also expect that the finnish drivers Jari Ketomaa and Pontus’ ŠKODA and EVEN Management teammate Esapekka Lappi will be difficult to beat.
Rally Poland is one of the oldest rallies in the world and has been run since 1921. It was included in the WRC in 1973 and after that it became an asphalt event in the European Championship. It did not return to the WRC until 2009 and then took a break from the WRC and was reintroduced again in 2014 and is now a gravel rally. The event is based in Mikolajki and starts with a 2.5 km spectator stage in the hosting city on Thursday evening. On Friday, a real challenge awaits the crews – they need to master eight stages, including the longest one in Polish rally history (39.12 km), without any service break during the day. Another eight stages will be run on Saturday, with a midday service break, and the last two stages awaits on Sunday. The 19 special stages measure a total of 315.53 km.