WRC Pontus Tidemand looks to extend WRC 2 lead in Portugal
For immediate release
Monday, May 14th, 2018
TIDEMAND LOOKS TO EXTEND WRC 2 LEAD IN PORTUGAL
MATOSINHOS (PORTUGAL): Sweden’s Pontus Tidemand arrives in Northern Portugal with an 18-point lead in the FIA WRC 2 Championship, as he bids to extend that advantage over Czech rival Jan Kopecky in this week’s 52nd Vodafone Rally of Portugal.
The wily Škoda Fabia R5 driver has claimed victories so far this season in Mexico and Argentina and the runner-up spot in his native Sweden. But he was pushed hard in South America recently and was all but handed the victory after a spectacular crash sidelined his category leading team-mate Kalle Rovanpera on the final morning.
Tidemand said: “The victory in Argentina could be a very important factor to eventually decide the outcome of the championship. It was a great win after a tough weekend and a big fight with Kalle. Portugal is another challenge and a very demanding rally with a lot of drivers and big competition from a very strong entry.”
Kopecky claimed maximum points in Monte-Carlo and Corsica, but missed the long-haul trip to Argentina and is also absent from the starting list in Portugal. That has opened the door for England’s Gus Greensmith and Chile’s Pedro Heller to close the gap on the Czech over the demanding Portuguese gravel stages this week. Greensmith guided his Ford Fiesta R5 to the runners-up spot in Argentina and holds third in the points’ standings. Heller is fourth, a further six points adrift, after finishing third in Argentina and Mexico.
The ever-popular Rally of Portugal has attracted 17 WRC 2 entrants including the talented young Japanese driver Takamoto Katsuta, who stormed to a stunning victory on his first appearance at Rally Sweden in February. The Ford Fiesta R5 driver holds fifth position in the points’ standings.
Finland’s Jarri Huttunen finished sixth in Sweden and Mexico and wheels out one of three Hyundai i20 R5s. The other two Korean cars will be in the hands of BRC Racing Team’s Pierre Louis-Loubet and Finland’s Max Vatanen, both drivers being the sons of esteemed former WRC stars Yves Loubet and Ari Vatanen.
Loubet Senior was the 1989 European Rally Champion, a multiple winner in France and a specialist driver for factory teams in the Tour of Corsica. Vatanen Senior won the Dakar Rally on four occasions and claimed the FIA World Rally Championship title in 1981. He is one of the most famous personalities in the history of the WRC.
Young Finnish driver Juuso Nordgren drives the second official Škoda Motorsport entry alongside Tidemand. This will be the first appearance of the season for the 2015 Finnish Junior Champion, while Romania’s Simone Tempestini also features for the first time this year in a Ford Fiesta R5 rather than his planned Citroën C3 R5.
Other WRC 2 drivers to watch out for in Portugal include the talented Spaniard Nil Solans, the experienced Dutchman Kevin Abbring, Citroën works driver Stéphane Lefebvre in a new C3 R5, Mexico’s Benito Guerra in the Motorsport Italia Škoda and Murat Bostanci in a Castrol Ford Team Turkey Fiesta R5.
The new C3 R5 claimed its first overall victory at the Rallye Lyon-Charbonnieres, as part of the French Rally Championship, and Lefebvre is confident that he can repeat the Junior WRC victory he achieved on the Algarve in 2014.
Lefebvre said: “This is a rally that I really like and where I have some good memories. The stages match my driving style with fast roads. I have contested it every year since it moved to Porto. I’m keen to have a good rally. The new gravel version of the C3 R5 has been well designed and we took part in some pre-event testing to be fully prepared.”
Several Portuguese drivers are sure to feature at the top of the WRC 2 standings but they are not eligible for championship points and are concentrating on the Portuguese Rally Championship.
Armindo Araújo is a two-time FIA PWRC champion and a three-time winner of the Rally of Portugal when it was not a round of the WRC. He and co-driver Luis Ramalho have entered the event in a Hyundai i20 R5.
They face local competition from the likes of Pedro Meireles and Miguel Barbosa in a pair of Škoda Fabia R5s and José Pedro Fontes in a Citroën C3 R5. Fontes was the Portuguese Rally Champion in 2015 and 2016 and drives the second factory-supported C3 R5 alongside Lefebvre.
Franceschi and Radström set for WRC 3 duel
The battle for WRC 3 honours in the two-wheel drive R2 category for cars powered by 1.6-litre turbocharged engines resumes in Portugal and two drivers are currently tied for the category lead.
Frenchman Jean-Baptiste Franceschi and Sweden’s Dennis Radstrõm have taken one win apiece so far this season in Corsica and Sweden, respectively, and a fourth position each to hold a joint lead in the series with 37 points. Swedish driver Emil Bergkvist is a mere four points behind, courtesy of second place in Sweden and third in Corsica.
Fourteen drivers are registered for WRC 3 points in Portugal and all of them are at the wheel of Ford Fiesta R2s. A similar number of drivers from 10 countries have also scored points in the series so far this year, with Italy’s Enrico Brazzoli the only non-Ford contender in the top five after securing victory in a Peugeot in Monte-Carlo.
Sweden’s Emil Bergvist and Frenchman Terry Folb will be hoping to close the gap on the category leaders when Portuguese action kicks off with a super special stage at the Lousada rally cross circuit on Thursday evening.
Bergvist is a mere four points adrift of the leading duo, while young Irishman Callum Devine is sure to challenge for the podium and the likes of Germany’s Julius Tannert, Estonian Ken Torn and Italy’s Luca Bottarelli will be looking towards a top finish.
2018 FIA WRC 2 Championship – positions after round 5:
1. Pontus Tidemand (SWE) 68 pts
2. Jan Kopecky (CZE) 50 pts
3. Gus Greensmith (GBR) 36 pts
4. Pedro Heller (CHI) 30 pts
5. Takamoto Katsuta (JPN) 29 pts
6. Ole Christian Veiby (NOR) 27 pts
7. Nil Solans (ESP) 22 pts
8. Eddie Scieserre (ITA) 18 pts
8. Yoann Bonato (FRA) 18 pts
10. Jarri Huttunen (FIN) 16 pts etc
2018 FIA WRC 3 Championship – latest positions:
1. Jean-Baptiste Franceschi (FRA) 37 pts
1. Dennis Radström (SWE) 37 pts
3. Emil Bergvist (SWE) 33 pts
4. Terry Folb (FRA) 28 pts
5. Enrico Brazzoli (ITA) 25 pts
6. Taisko Lario (FIN) 19 pts
7. Amaury Molle (BEL) 18 pts
8. Julius Tannert (DEU) 17 pts
9. Callum Devine (IRL) 16 pts
10. Yurii Protasov (UKR) 8 pts
For further media information:
Miguel Fonseca, National Rally Press Officer, email: email@example.com and Lluisa Torras, International Media Relations, email: firstname.lastname@example.org, Mobile: +34 629 924073.