Clear upward trend for ŠKODA Motorsport on day two of the Rally Sweden. After a mixed start to the second event of the FIA World Rally Championship (WRC 2) on Friday, the two ŠKODA works drivers Pontus Tidemand (S) and Esapekka Lappi (FIN) worked their way significantly up the field with outstanding stage times in the WRC 2 classification.
This leaves local hero Tidemand and his co-driver Jonas Andersson (S) in second place going into the final day of his home rally, and his deficit of 17.9 seconds to leader Elfyn Evans (GB) even gives him a minimal chance of victory. Team-mate Lappi and co-driver Janne Ferm (FIN) are also dreaming of a podium finish. The ‘flying Finns’ are just 8.7 seconds off third place.
Four of the five stage best times on Saturday went to a ŠKODA Fabia R5 driver. Lappi won the special stages Rämmen 2 and Vargåsen 2 – narrowly beating Tidemand on each stage, who previously won the stage Vargåsen 1 and the spectator stage in the Karlstad equestrian stadium in the evening. Meaning that a ŠKODA works driver set the pace on both passes of the legendary stage on which the teams have to master the acclaimed Colin’s Crest, popular with rally fans.
“We had a lot of fun on the special stages today,” said Pontus Tidemand. “The ŠKODA Fabia R5 ran perfectly and I was in excellent harmony with my new co-driver Jonas Andersson. Jonas really is a pace note guru! Today’s stages were pure gravel tracks during the recce, but they were completely covered in snow today. Despite this, we were able to push thanks to Jonas’ experience, and increasingly reduced the deficit to the leaders. It’s a shame that so many classified kilometres were cancelled and there is only one stage left for tomorrow. However, we will give it our all once again to try and make the impossible possible.”
Lappi, who complained he was suffering with a cold on Saturday, hasn’t given up on the dream of a place on the winner’s podium either. “I’m a little surprised that I made up so many places today and even won two stages,” said Esapekka Lappi. “I didn’t actually feel that well during the day. But in the afternoon in particular I found a good rhythm and got through the stages cleanly. The aim was to make up as many places as possible. Maybe we will even manage to move up another place, even though it will be far from easy on the relatively short power stage on Sunday.”
The two ŠKODA works drivers really don’t have a lot of time, or more accurately, many kilometres left to continue their pursuit. Due to the unusually mild weather conditions in the Swedish province of Värmland, which caused eight special stages to be cancelled at the beginning of the week, only the final power stage covering 15.87 kilometres will be held on Sunday. Four stages covering 61.74 kilometres were originally planned for the final day. This sees the overall distance of the Rally Sweden reduced from 331.21 to 226.48 classified kilometres.
Rally Sweden (WRC 2) classification after six of 12 SS:
- Evans/Parry (GB/GB) Ford Fiesta R5 1h56m49.4s
- Tidemand/Andersson (S/S) ŠKODA Fabia R5 + 17.9s
- Grøndal/Walfridsson (N/S) Ford Fiesta R5 + 1m50.6s
- Lappi/Ferm (FIN/FIN) ŠKODA Fabia R5 + 1m59.3s
- Brynildsen/Fredriksson (N/S) Ford Fiesta R5 + 2m28.8s
Number of the day: 1.13
Mission Impossible? Maybe. But Pontus Tidemand will leave no stone unturned on Sunday. His deficit to leader Elfyn Evans stands at 17.9 seconds going into the final special stage of the Rally Sweden. To claim the win in the WRC 2 classification at his home rally, Tidemand would have to be 1.13 seconds per kilometre faster than his rival. An almost impossible task to master in modern rallying.