Sat 30 Sep 2023

Storming Tänak leaves Chile rivals trailing

Ott Tänak grew his Rally Chile Bio Bío lead to a whopping 47.8 seconds with a masterful performance on Saturday’s morning loop at the South American fixture.

Tänak, driving a Puma Rally1 for British team M-Sport Ford, began this penultimate day just 4.2sec clear of Hyundai Motorsport rival Teemu Suninen but stormed clear of the field, again thanks to a clever strategy.

In contrast with Friday’s fast and open route, Saturday morning’s speed tests south of the Concepción service park were longer, twistier and much more abrasive. Tyre and speed management proved to be key - and Tänak, unlike title contenders Elfyn Evans and Kalle Rovanperä, excelled in all areas.

Second-fastest only to championship leader Kalle Rovanperä through the Chivilingo opener, the Estonian blitzed the following stage at Rio Lia by 6.8sec as his rivals slowed down to preserve their Pirelli rubber.

But Tänak had also saved two brand-new hard compound tyres for the pivotal 28.72km Maria de las Cruces finale, which he duly bolted onto the car before setting the pace once again by 7.6sec.

Suninen, who carried just five tyres compared with Tänak’s six, fell to third overall behind Toyota GR Yaris man Elfyn Evans with his cautious approach to Chivilingo. But unlike Evans, who relied solely on soft compound rubber, three of Suninen’s tyres were hard.

That proved to be decisive in the last stage, where Evans suffered two tyre delaminations and plummeted to fourth. He dropped behind Suninen as well as the Finn’s i20 N colleague Thierry Neuville, who ended 13.8sec ahead of the Welshman despite a puncture early in the day.

Rovanperä started too aggressively and, after winning SS7, was forced to nurse his Toyota’s soft tyres to the loop’s completion. The 23-year-old sat more than 40 seconds behind Evans in fifth overall and his hopes of wrapping up a second drivers’ world title with two rounds to spare look increasingly slim.

Just like team-mate Evans, Takamoto Katsuta was another driver to encounter two tyre delaminations in Maria de las Cruces. The Japanese remained seventh overall, however, comfortably clear of Puma debutant Grégoire Munster.

Not even an early-morning spin could prevent Oliver Solberg from overtaking Sami Pajari to lead WRC2 by 16.7sec. The pair, both driving Toksport-prepared Škoda Fabia RS Rally2 cars, sat eighth and ninth overall while local ace Alberto Heller completed the top 10 despite also experiencing tyre dramas in his Puma.

Starts: Thursday, July 18, 2024 at 4:31:00 AM
Starts: Friday, July 26, 2024 at 7:00:00 AM
Starts: Saturday, July 27, 2024 at 6:00:00 AM