Thierry Neuville climbed to third overall after winning Saturday morning’s opening speed test at Copec Rally Chile.
Stage info: SS7
Rio Lia 1, 20.90km
Saturday’s opening test tracks the path of the Lia river from start to finish. It’s fast at first on a smooth and flowing road but after 2km it becomes incredibly twisty for the rest of the way, offering no respite for drivers and co-drivers. Straights are few and drivers must find a good rhythm. Towards the finish the stage opens and the surface becomes harder.
The Belgian, driving a Hyundai i20, stopped the clocks four-tenths faster than overnight leader Ott Tänak and demoted Jari-Matti Latvala to fourth.
Latvala was delayed by Toyota Yaris team-mate Kris Meeke, who rolled and limped to the finish. The Briton dropped almost 5min 30sec, plunging out of the top 10 and with a lot of work to do to repair his battered car.
“I rolled in a slow corner. I accelerated through the corner and ran wide. There must have been a tree stump on the outside,” explained Meeke, who allowed Latvala to pass and later stopped to allow Sébastien Ogier through without hindering his progress.
Latvala dropped 20sec behind Meeke and now trails Neuville by a similar amount in the standings. “We catch Kris. He had a problem. He did not realise that we were behind him and we drove quite a long way like that. We should get the time back,” he said.
The stage was damp and more slippery than expected and Tänak was more than five seconds faster than Ogier’s Citroën C3 to stretch his lead to 27.7sec. Ogier was far from happy at the finish.
“I’m not really confident. At the rear I have no grip in the fast sections and I have understeer in the slower parts,” he said.
Elfyn Evans climbed to sixth after Meeke’s roll but the Welshman was lucky to escape unscathed after a compression threw his Ford Fiesta off the road early in the stage. Andreas Mikkelsen was another to visit a ditch in his i20.