Ott Tänak reignited his FIA World Rally Championship title bid with victory at the inaugural Copec Rally Chile on Sunday afternoon.
The Estonian led from the second of the 16 speed tests on Friday morning in a Toyota Yaris. He measured his pace on wet, slippery and foggy forest tracks to claim his second win of the season by 23.1sec from Sébastien Ogier.
Victory promoted him to second in the drivers’ standings after disappointing results at the previous two rounds. He lies 10 points behind new leader Ogier, who replaced Thierry Neuville at the top as the championship approaches its midpoint.
Neuville lies two points further adrift after his huge rally-ending crash yesterday. All three have now scored two wins each this season.
Aside from an overshoot in the first speed test, Tänak was firmly in control, quickly getting to grips with the tricky conditions and new pace notes required for Chile’s WRC debut. A final charge ensured maximum bonus points from the rally-closing Wolf Power Stage.
“It was a very difficult and demanding weekend and I needed a lot of focus and energy to be perfect,” he said.
“We weren’t on the limit all the time. We’ve had two setbacks in a row before this where we lost the rally lead, but we proved we’re back in the fight.”
Ogier locked horns with fellow multi-world champion Sébastien Loeb in a furious fight for second. Driving a Hyundai i20 for the first time on gravel, Loeb closed to within 1.1sec of Ogier this morning before the Citroen C3 driver battled back to finish 7.1sec clear.
Ogier’s Power Stage drive was handicapped when a fire extinguisher went off, leaving the Frenchman light-headed by the end of the 12.52km test.
Elfyn Evans eased through the short final leg to claim fourth in a Ford Fiesta, more than a minute adrift of Loeb. Team-mate Teemu Suninen held off Esapekka Lappi to secure fifth, his cause aided when Lappi spun his C3 in the final stage.
Andreas Mikkelsen was a distant seventh in another i20, the Norwegian leading home Kalle Rovanperä, winner of the WRC 2 Pro support category, and Mads Østberg.
Kris Meeke recovered to eighth following Saturday morning's roll in SS7. However, he was handed a post-event 60sec penalty by stewards for removing his Toyota Yaris' windscreen in a prohibited area before the start of SS8. The decision relegated him to 10th.
The championship returns to Europe later this month for the first of two hot weather gravel road fixtures there. Vodafone Rally de Portugal is based in Matosinhos, Porto, on 30 May - 2 June.