View from the service park

Teemu Suninen was in a quandary. What to do? Staring out at tens of thousands of fans cheering his name, he had nothing to offer. Nothing to give. The cupboard was bare. Quite literally, he had given everything he had to give to the crowd at the ceremonial start.

But wait… what about his own cap? And that of co-driver Marko Salminen? He hesitated briefly, remembering the directive of M-Sport Ford World Rally Team PR Anna Rudd: “Remember… you’ll need your own caps for the event.”

Risking the wrath of Rudd, a couple more caps flew. And the world went mad. Welcome to Chile.

From the outset, Copec Rally Chile organisers talked about the need to get the show right. Of course, the sporting side of the event underpinned everything, but the show was what would be seen by fans around the world.

This was Chile’s chance to shine. It didn’t disappoint.

There was unanimous praise for a ceremony which raised the bar last Thursday night. And a good start got better and better as every metre of a breathtaking route unfolded over the next three days.

Trying to describe the roads, the crews looked to Wales, to Finland, down under to Australia for the trees and New Zealand for the cambers. But actually, this was Chile.

In capturing six, back-to-back WRC titles, Sébastien Ogier is a man who has driven down some of the best stages planet earth has to offer. He fell in love again in the forests and mountains inland from the Pacific.

Sébastien Ogier was a big fan of Chile's smooth gravel roads

“The roads are beautiful,” he said. “There is something of everything. Beautiful.”

Who are we to argue with such expert analysis and sentiment?

Understandably, the drivers and co-drivers are all about the roads. But for the mere mortals guiding hire cars down the same roads days before the start, there was a moment to look beyond the apex and exit of every bend. And doing so was unbelievably rewarding.

Cloud rushing in from the Pacific, trapped in the valleys between the mountains and lit by stunning southern hemisphere sunshine, meant progress through the stages was slowed as iPhones were filled with thousands of pictures from a part of the world which left an indelible mark on the memory of those who were there. It was that good.

And, looking down from even higher, it’s clear the inaugural Rally Chile route is the tip of the iceberg. The range of roads available and untouched is remarkable.

When Ott Tänak stepped out of his rally-winning Toyota Yaris and admitted he’d got a new favourite event, nobody batted an eyelid. Even fewer disagreed.

Coming over the Andes from Argentina, nobody truly knew what to expect from Chile, but the WRC’s newest recruit delivered on its promise of a very special show.

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