Ahead of the final WRC round at Italian ACI Rally Monza, Pontus Tidemand had the chance to take the WRC 2 champion title after an impressive season. Two days into the rally he almost had the victory in his hands. But the wrong tyre choice on day three cost him a lot of time and despite a top performance, he eventually finished second – both at the rally and in the championship.
A legendary race track is usually not the playground for the WRC’s season finale, but this year a creative solution was needed to be able to crown winners in all the series’ championships. Three days on the track’s demanding sections were mixed with a day on the winding and slippery roads on the foothill of the Italian Alps and it became a huge challenge for the competing crews.
For Pontus, all was at stake as he competed for the champion title in the WRC 2 category. The goal was to repeat the success of 2017 when he took his first WRC 2 title, which was his second title in the WRC after becoming junior world champion back in 2013. The task was not easy this weekend. ACI Rally Monza was one of three completely new rallies for Pontus this season and it’s been three years since last time he competed on asphalt in an R5 car.
With a great amount of focus, he still managed to take the lead on Friday. The following day, it was time to head up to the mountains and face stages that are similar to the ones you normally only see at Rallye Monte-Carlo. The weather forecast predicted snow and Pontus started the day with snow tyres on his car and when the roads turned out to be just wet without any snow at all, he quickly lost a chunk of time. In the afternoon, they decided to go for rain tyres instead and that’s when snow started to fall heavily.
“We were unlucky with the tyre choices and it was more or less on Saturday that we lost the chances of a victory. If we could have kept our pace up, things could have been different. A real shame, but that’s rallying. We didn’t give up, we really wanted to still try and fight all the way to the finish” said Pontus, who’s had Patrik Barth in the co-driver’s seat all year.
Two stages got cancelled during the day, which meant that Pontus, who had just started to catch time, missed out on good opportunities to fight back. After Saturday’s last stage, he was in second place with half a minute to Mads Østberg in the lead.
On Sunday, the Swedish duo had a big job in front of them. Determined to do what they could to narrow down the gap, they went for the snow tyre option that would suit the two last stages with a lot of gravel. But the gap was too big to do something about and after a great attack, they crossed the finish line with both good times and a puncture.
“This has been a demanding and tough weekend, but the challenge has been the same for everyone. We’ve had fun and I’ve really enjoyed the fight with Mads. Sure I wish we had a couple of more stages left, but I still feel very pleased with our performance. This season we’ve often found ourselves in situations where we’ve had to drive tactically, so I’m happy that we now could show that we’ve got the speed and a bit of fighting spirit when we’re in a position like this” said Pontus.
Pontus finished second in the WRC 2 Drivers’ Championship 2020, just four points behind Østberg, after a different, but performance and results wise strong season. He has finished on the podium in every WRC rally that he has participated at and he took the victory in Mexico, Turkey and Sardinia, while he scored third place in Sweden and Estonia. The second place that he is taking from this weekend also marks his 36th podium in the WRC since 2012.
“Looking at the results, I have to say that I’m happy with what we’ve done this year. Patrik has done an amazing job reading the pacenotes, we’ve had a fantastic team work with Toksport and we’ve had new experiences from new events. So far I have no plan for 2021, but I definitely know that I’m hungry for more and I really want to continue to improve and move forward in the world of rallying” said Pontus.