Perhaps the biggest challenge of the season awaits Pontus Tidemand this weekend. Malaysian Rally is the fourth round of the FIA Asia-Pacific Rally Championship and is described by many as ‘rallying in a sauna’.
Pontus comes to the event with a good championship lead and is prepared for anything to happen when he and co-driver Emil Axelsson takes on the Malaysian jungle. New experiences and challenges are probably the words that best describe Pontus’ year with SKODA Motorsport so far.
Asia-Pacific Rally Championship (APRC) with its exotic destinations and special road characters, is something extraordinary and despite the fact that Pontus has no previous experience from any of these events to rely on, he has lived up to the expectations. Halfway into the season, he has two victories and a second place, which gives him a strong championship lead and a good chance to finish the APRC series in a great way.
“Everything fell into place at the very first rally. It is easy to work with a team that is this professional and makes a huge effort every time and at the same time mine and Emil’s cooperation works completely perfectly at all times” said Pontus. “When you don’t have to think about details, you can put all your focus on the right things and both be one hundred percent ready for each rally and keep the concentration throughout the event. That gives results.”
All the APRC events offer unique challenges. The first three rallies in New Zealand, New Caledonia and Australia were tough, but now it is time for the roughest of them all – Malaysian Rally. The event is based in the city of Johor Bahru, located in the state of Johor in western Malaysia, and after the start ceremony on Friday evening, the crews will master 14 special stages, totaling 226.56 km, on Saturday and Sunday.
It will be anything but easy with the narrow and twisty roads, which requires lower speed, but more concentration in order to stay out of the deep ditches. But the biggest challenge of the weekend is undoubtedly the tropical climate with temperatures around 30 degrees Celcius and humidity of 95%. “The heat will definitely be our worst enemy during the weekend” explained Pontus. “It is nice for a day on the beach, but when you are not used to these temperatures and you are also trapped in a car with a lot at stake, the challenges you usually face at a rally becomes even bigger. But the will to succeed is there and it will be fun to challenge myself and push my own limits. It becomes even more exciting now that you compete just as much with yourself as you do with your actual competitors.”
After three of the six rounds that the FIA Asia-Pacific Rally Championship consists of, Pontus has a total of 108 points. His MRF teammates Gaurav Gill and Jean-Louis Leyraud are in second and third place with 74 and 56 points.
PHOTOS: Geoff Ridder