The WRC’s first visit to Copec Rally Chile (9 - 12 May) represents a clean sheet of paper for everyone – from co-drivers filling that paper with all-new pace notes to drivers getting to grips with previously undriven roads.
Round six is hosted in the port city of Concepción, almost 500km south of capital city Santiago. Most of the route is sandwiched between the Pacific Ocean and the Biobío River, the country’s second biggest waterway.
The gravel road fixture ventures deep into inland forests on medium-fast tracks used by timber trucks, but there are also more open tests with stunning Pacific views.
It kicks off with a colourful opening ceremony on Thursday evening in central Concepción.
Friday’s opening leg is the longest at 125.27km and journeys south for two arduous loops of forest tests, split by service at Talcahuano. El Pinar (17.11km) is driven once with El Puma (30.72km) and Espigado (22.26km) tackled twice.
It ends with the exciting early evening Bicentenario street stage in the centre of Concepción. The 2.20km test passes the city’s theatre and the monument remembering the earthquake and tsunami which hit the region in 2010.
El Puma is the longest test of the event and is described as the ‘Ouninpohja of Chile’, in reference to Finland’s classic stage. The technically complicated but fast, cambered roads will be a tough challenge.
A compact second leg closer to the city packs 121km of stages into less than 400km. Rio Lia (20.90km), Maria Las Cruces (23.09km) and Pelun (16.59km) are driven morning and afternoon with service in-between.
Sunday’s four stage finale covers almost 59km and features more open roads. The 12.52km Bio Bio test, which starts by the river and finishes on the coast, opens the action and closes it as the Wolf Power Stage. It sandwiches Lircay (18.06km) and San Nicolàs (15.28km).
Top 5 Challenges
• No previous experience for competitors or back-up teams.
• Drivers and co-drivers must prepare new pace notes.
• No opportunity to perfect car set-up before the rally as testing in Chile was not allowed.
• Lack of knowledge about tyre performance and wear.
• Choosing when to cut corners. There are plenty of opportunities to save vital tenths, but road verges hide tree stumps and stones so pace notes must not be too optimistic.