Toyota Gazoo Racing team-mates Kris Meeke and Jari-Matti Latvala tied for the lead of Copec Rally Chile after a slippery start to the FIA World Rally Championship’s newcomer on Friday morning.
Stage info: SS1
El Pinar, 17.11km
Chile’s first WRC special stage is narrow and located deep in the forest. The flowing test begins with picturesque views of the Golfo de Arauco in the background. It climbs for the opening 11km to almost 500 metres above sea level, before plunging downhill to the finish. It’s a twisty ascent, but straightens out towards the end as speeds increase. There are some short sandy sections with a few areas of standing water.
They negotiated the tricky 17.11km El Pinar speed test 2.1km sec faster than Elfyn Evans, but both had a far from easy passage over forest roads that remained wet and muddy after recent rain.
“It’s not an easy stage when you recce in the fog. Some places were not correct in my pace notes,” said Latvala, whose time was slightly faster than Meeke when taken to hundredths of seconds.
The Briton was relieved to complete the test unscathed. “So slippery to be honest. I had a lot of places where the road was broken and there was mud beneath. It’s difficult to concentrate on new pace notes when conditions are like that,” explained Meeke.
Evans admitted he did not have a perfect run in his Ford Fiesta, but the Welshman was 0.5sec clear of Sébastien Ogier and a further 0.3sec ahead of Ott Tänak. Both were caught out at a slippery bridge early in the test and overshot a corner,
“I had a little stall and also struggled a bit with understeer. The feeling with the car wasn’t too bad but the conditions are difficult,” said Ogier.
Tänak was fastest at the opening split but the Estonian made the same mistake. His Yaris’ engine stalled and took several seconds to restart.
Championship leader and road opener Thierry Neuville completed the top six in his Hyundai i20, the Belgian lacking confidence in his pace notes in the tricky conditions.
Andreas Mikkelsen eased off after hitting a rock while Esapekka Lappi, driving a new Citroën C3 following his accident in Argentina two weeks ago, was slowest of the frontrunners after losing almost 20sec.
“We went wide on one corner after the watersplash and I needed to reverse. It was a lot more muddy than I thought,” said the Finn.