Mon 09 Oct 2023

Talking points from Rally Chile Bio Bío

The FIA World Rally Championship’s return to Chile was well worth the four-year wait. Today we look back at some of the key talking points from round 11.

STAR DRIVE

Ott Tänak maintained his 100 per cent winning record on Chilean soil but, ultimately, it was strategy, not just speed, which earned the Estonian his 19th career victory. 


Tänak and his M-Sport Ford team made two pivotal tyre gambles, the first of which came on Friday afternoon when Tänak was the only frontrunning driver to select a tyre package consisting exclusively of soft compound Pirelli rubber. Known for its superior performance but shorter lifespan, he stormed into the lead of the rally to lead by 4.2sec overnight. 


Saturday’s speed tests were contrastingly longer, twistier and much more abrasive than Friday’s. And while Tänak’s rivals leaned towards Pirelli’s soft compound option for the morning loop, the Estonian’s decision to carry four hard tyres on board made a world of difference.


Rivals Teemu Suninen, Elfyn Evans and Kalle Rovanperä simply ran out of rubber and haemorrhaged time while Tänak, on the other hand, took full advantage of the situation and extended his lead to almost one minute.

MOST MEMORABLE STAGE

Saturday’s first run through Maria de las Cruces served up action in abundance as Toyota Gazoo Racing drivers Evans and Takamoto Katsuta plus M-Sport privateer Alberto Heller all crawled across the flying finish with rubber flailing from the rear of their cars. 


Further down the order, Bruno Bulacia and Fabrizio Zaldivar faced similar tyre troubles while WRC2 hopeful Martin Scuncio rolled his Škoda Fabia RS Rally2 in full view of Rally.TV’s live cameras. 


This was also the stage in which Tänak cemented his place at the top of the standings, outpacing Suninen - his closest challenger at the time - by 15.7sec.

BIGGEST SURPRISE


By mid-Sunday morning, nobody expected that, within a matter of hours, Toyota would be celebrating its third-successive manufacturers’ championship title. 


The Japanese marque arrived in Chile requiring a score just 13 points higher than Hyundai’s to win the series two rallies early but, with i20 N battlers Suninen and Thierry Neuville on course for a double podium, Toyota’s chances were looking increasingly slim. 


But that all changed in the penultimate stage when Suninen, contesting only his third fixture in Rally1 machinery, clipped a tree stump which forced his Hyundai into retirement with broken steering.


While his demise did elevate team-mate Neuville to second overall, it also promoted Evans and Rovanperä to third and fourth. Their results, combined with P1 and P2 in the bonus-points Wolf Power Stage, were enough for Toyota to be crowned champions.

YOU'LL NEVER BELIEVE IT

If there was ever a list of things not to forget for your top-level WRC debut, pace notes would be at the very top. Sadly for Grégoire Munster’s co-driver Louis Louka, that’s exactly what happened on Friday morning. 


By the time Louka realised he had left his documents in his hotel room, he and Munster were already en-route to the first stage of the day. M-Sport Ford staff sent photographs of the pace notes via text messages and Louka, amazingly, read them from his mobile phone.

NUMBER OF THE RALLY 31.


The number of points now separating Kalle Rovanperä and Elfyn Evans in the drivers’ standings with two rounds remaining. 


Rovanperä could become a two-time WRC champion later this month if he departs Central European Rally (26 - 29 October) with a 30-point advantage still intact.


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