Four Swedes were fighting for medals when the WRC season ended in Spain. P-G Andersson and Emil Axelsson won the silver in SWRC while Pontus Tidemand and Norwegian co-driver Stig-Rune Skjaermoen (photo) won the bronze in the WRC Academy.
Jonas Anderson did not get a medal. He and Mads Østberg had to settle for fourth place in WRC.
WRC 2012 ended with world champion Sébastien Loeb at the top of the results board. After nine consecutive gold medals the Frenchman’s career as full-time rally driver is over. Next season he will only take part in a few selected WRC events. The rest of the time he will be preparing for his new career – as a racing driver in WTCC where he will continue the successfull cooperation with Citroën.
Loeb won in Spain ahead of Finns Jari-Matti Latvala and Mikko Hirvonen. The second position in the final event for Latvlala, who is now leaving Ford for Volkswagen, meant that he passed Mads Østberg and Jonas Andersson in the overall standinigs. The Norwegian-Swedish duo opened the rally in the best possible way by being fastest on the Friday and having a lead of almost half a minute as the rally continued on Saturday. But both the lead and the shot at the bronze in WRC was lost due to an unfortunate tire choice and a visit off road. But they were both pleased with a fourth position in the rally as well as overall.
Given a little time, P-G Andersson and Emil Axelsson will most likely also be pleased with their effort. The Swedes, competing for Proton, aimed for gold in SWRC and opened by winning the first two stages. However, on SS3 they broke a drive shaft and lost almost one and a half minute, and the lead, to rival Craig Breen.
They made up some of the lost time on SS4 but then ill fortune struck again.
– On SS5 we had a small skid but unfortunately we hit a rock and damaged the steering.
And there another two and a halvf minute was lost and with it the chance to win the rally and claim the gold medal in SWRC. Andersson/Axelsson had to settle for second place in SWRC, eigth position overall in the rally. This meant they got the silver medal in SWRC while the gold went to Craig Breen, who became the second driver ever, after Sébastien Loeb, to win the gold medal in two different championships. Because last year the Irishman won the WRC Acedemy.
It was very emotional for Breen to cross the finish line of the last stage as champion. Earlier this season he lost co-driver Gareth Robert in a tragic accident in Sicily. Then he wasn’t sure he could continue with rallying, but in Finland he was back. And now he’s World Champion.
In the WRC Academy Pontus Tidemand and Norwegian co-driver Stig-Rune Skjaermoen secured the bronze. Their final rally of the season was impressive. Along with scoring 18 points for ending second after home driver Jose Suarez, Pontus and Stig-Rune won seven of the twelve stages in the rally.
The points (seven) for the stage victories proved crucial in the fight for the championship bronze, behind Elfyn Evans and Suarez. Tidemand and Brendan Reeves from Australia both ended on 84 points, but the bronze was awarded to Tidemand.
Tidemand and Skjaermoen opened the rally by winning five of the six stages on the Friday. Still, they were “only” in second place as the day ended. This due to a puncture on SS% wich cost them three minutes.
– During this season we’ve been on the podium in alla events where we haven’t had technical issues and we’ve won the second most number of stage victories. Naturally I’m very pleased with the third place in the championship and we’ve showed that we’re one of the fastest teams out there, when everything works, says Pontus.
In PWRC, where there were no Swedes competing in Spain, the gold went to Benito Guerra fom Mexiko.