It’s the return of the European Rally Championship this weekend, and for Pontus Tidemand it spells a return to international rallying for the first time since 2020.
Last seen internationally 824 days ago when he missed out on the 2020 WRC2 title to Mads Østberg on Rally Monza, there’s been little action for the 32-year-old since – contesting just seven rallies in Sweden and Norway during that period.
But a full-time drive with MRF Tyres in a Ford Fiesta Rally2 brings a new horizon for Tidemand, who is keen for the first round in Portugal to get underway.
“For sure I’m very, very excited,” he told DirtFish.
“I think it will be a very good rally, the roads are very nice and there are many cars in the ERC.
“I’m expecting a lot of action during the weekend!”
But it won’t be an easy task from the get-go on Rally Serras de Fafe, with a huge entry list of 40 Rally2 cars including old WRC foe Østberg, Hayden Paddon and Craig Breen to mention just a few of those names.
For Tidemand, that’s a lineup like that will give all the more reason to push as soon as the first stage gets underway on Friday evening.
“Yeah for sure it’s like I say, it’s straight to the heat,” he said.
“I think the pace will be very high from the very first meters, the competition can’t get so much better.
“I think at the end of the rally, when we see all the drivers [on the leaderboard], I think in the top it will be very close, I think it will not be any big difference, so for sure it will be very hard.”
When asked what a suitable target might be in Portugal and for the rest of the year, whether he’ll be searching for a strong result or just re-adjusting himself to the international scene, Tidemand said there’ll be a mix of the two.
“It’ll be both, like I say in this rally, I think it’s important for us and the team to try to get to the finish and get some good points for sure,” he explained.
“But I guess the competition will be very hard so aiming for a victory is maybe a bit too optimistic. But for sure we will try to get from here with some good points, that’s the main target.
“It’s hard to say for the moment how it will be [this year],” Tidemand added.
“I think we will get a good answer from this one in Portugal about how it will be so we’ll just have to see after this rally.”
Although he remained cautious to say just what his objective is for 2023, Tidemand already has a solid foundation with the team he’s joined.
Partnering up with reigning champion Efrén Llarena and last year’s Rally Liepāja winner Mārtiņš Sesks, he has good company.
And MRF Tyres isn’t an unfamiliar outfit for him, having had success with the team back in 2015.
Tying that with the drive he has to succeed in the championship could make for a strong relationship, especially given their history.
“I’m really hungry, and I want to push forward,” he said.
“As I said the communication we had [with MRF Tyres], and what we will try, the feeling is good.
“I also have some history with them back to 2015 when I was driving in the Asia Pacific, so we’ve known each other from a long time ago and they want to really push so that’s good.
“That’s what we need to do.”
It’ll be a first full-time outing in the ERC for Tidemand, but as for a return to the WRC service park? That’s still unclear.
“It’s just wait and see, there’s no plans for the moment,” he said when asked about any potential WRC plan.
“But you never know, things can change quickly in this game.”