The WRC (World Rally Championship) debut in Chile was a resounding success for title hopeful Ott Tanak, who won the inaugural Chilean rally ahead of Thierry Neuville and Sebastien Ogier. Tanak practically led from start to finish and beat Ogier by just 23 seconds at the finish. Third place went to 9-time WRC Champion Sebastien Loeb, who drove a Hyundai i20 WRC.
|In his trusty Toyota Yaris WRC, Tanak got in front from the second of 16 stages on the first day itself. Despite a relatively unknown course in Chile, the Yaris WRC driver was fast and accurate to maintain the lead all the way to the finish. It was his second win of the season which propelled him to second in the standings. Ogier, who finished second now tops the standings with Neuville demoted to third, after a disastrous rally of Chile outing. Neuville crashed out on leg 2, crushing his hopes to maintain his standings lead. |
Tanak took control of the rally from stage two, after he overshot in the first stage; his only error. He then controlled the pace and quickly got 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. 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,” the Estonian said.
Ogier locked horns with countryman 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 at the start of the final leg before the Citroen C3 driver battled back to finish 7.1sec clear. The Frenchman’s Power Stage drive was handicapped when a fire extinguisher went off, leaving Ogier light-headed by the end otthe 12.52km test.
Behind Loeb was Elfyn Evans who 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.
The WRC returns to Europe later this month for the first of two hot weather gravel road fixtures there. Rally of Portugal is based in Matosinhos, Porto, on 30 May – 2 June.
WRC Rally of Chile results
1. O Tänak Toyota Yaris 3hr 15min 53.8sec
2. S Ogier Citroën C3 +23.1sec
3. S Loeb Hyundai i20 +30.2sec
4. E Evans Ford Fiesta +1min 36.7sec
5. T Suninen Ford Fiesta +3min 15.6sec
6. E Lappi Citroën C3 +3min 45.4sec
WRC Drivers standings (after round 6 of 14)
1. S Ogier 122pts
2. O Tänak 112pts
3. T Neuville 110pts