Rally Chile, friday: Dominant Tänak leads
Sébastien Ogier ended a tough day in second
SS1: Latvala and Meeke tied
Toyota Gazoo Racing team-mates Kris Meeke and Jari-Matti Latvala tied for the lead of Copec Rally Chile after a slippery start to the FIA World Rally Championship’s newcomer on Friday morning.
They negotiated the tricky 17.11km El Pinar speed test 2.1km sec faster than Elfyn Evans, but both had a far from easy passage over forest roads that remained wet and muddy after recent rain.
“It’s not an easy stage when you recce in the fog. Some places were not correct in my pace notes,” said Latvala, whose time was slightly faster than Meeke when taken to hundredths of seconds.
The Briton was relieved to complete the test unscathed. “So slippery to be honest. I had a lot of places where the road was broken and there was mud beneath. It’s difficult to concentrate on new pace notes when conditions are like that,” explained Meeke.
Evans admitted he did not have a perfect run in his Ford Fiesta, but the Welshman was 0.5sec clear of Sébastien Ogier and a further 0.3sec ahead of Ott Tänak. Both were caught out at a slippery bridge early in the test and overshot a corner,
“I had a little stall and also struggled a bit with understeer. The feeling with the car wasn’t too bad but the conditions are difficult,” said Ogier.
Tänak was fastest at the opening split but the Estonian made the same mistake. His Yaris’ engine stalled and took several seconds to restart.
Championship leader and road opener Thierry Neuville completed the top six in his Hyundai i20, the Belgian lacking confidence in his pace notes in the tricky conditions.
Andreas Mikkelsen eased off after hitting a rock while Esapekka Lappi, driving a new Citroën C3 following his accident in Argentina two weeks ago, was slowest of the frontrunners after losing almost 20sec.
“We went wide on one corner after the watersplash and I needed to reverse. It was a lot more muddy than I thought,” said the Finn.
SS2-3: Tänak takes Chile lead
Ott Tänak led WRC title rivals Sébastien Ogier and Thierry Neuville after a fascinating opening morning at Copec Rally Chile on Friday.
Difficult driving conditions provided a severe test through the opening three speed tests south of host city Concepción, but Tänak took charge to head Ogier by 6.1sec with Neuville half a second behind in third.
Wet forest roads, equally slippery polished tracks, sunshine penetrating a dense tree canopy to provide a strobe-like effect in the shadows and new pace notes made in fog for the WRC’s first visit to Chile left drivers battling to adapt.
Tänak conceded a handful of seconds in the opening El Pinar special stage after overshooting a corner at a slippery bridge in his Toyota Yaris. He recovered to win El Puma and claim third in Espigado after modifying his car’s set-up to find a better balance.
“It’s going well so far but it’s tough, the roads are challenging. They are fast, slow, constantly changing and the visibility was tough with the sun and the shadows. First time in Chile is a big job,” said the Estonian, who promised better pace note for the afternoon.
Ogier made an identical mistake to Tänak, but was happier with his Citroën C3’s performance than in Argentina, following significant changes in the intervening two weeks by the French manufacturer.
Neuville’s push was interrupted when his run through El Puma was halted by a red flag issued for safety reasons. The stage was quickly restarted for others, but the Belgian was awarded a notional time after driving his Hyundai i20 slowly to the finish.
With the benefit of less worn tyres, Neuville then won Espigado, returning to service hot on the heels of Ogier.
Jari-Matti Latvala was fourth in another Yaris, 6.3sec behind Neuville. The Finn was tied for the lead after the opening stage but held his hands up to several mistakes, returning to Concepción almost 15sec to the good over team-mate Kris Meeke.
After sharing fastest time with Latvala in the opener, Meeke dropped back. “I’ve been struggling with the notes and it doesn’t feel nice in the car. I’m hesitating. It’s a combination of everything. Notes, new stages, shafts of light through the trees,” he said.
Elfyn Evans was sixth in his Ford Fiesta, 1.8sec behind Meeke and almost 10sec clear of Sébastien Loeb’s i20.
A despondent Andreas Mikkelsen was eighth, the Norwegian happy on tight and twisty sections but lacking confidence and commitment on faster roads. He was more than half a minute adrift of Loeb, while Teemu Suninen and Esapekka Lappi completed the leaderboard.
After SS6: Dominant Tänak leads
Ott Tänak shrugged aside an early error to hold a comfortable lead at the end of Friday’s fascinating opening leg of Copec Rally Chile.
The Toyota Yaris driver won three of the six speed tests on slippery forest roads south of Concepción to head Sébastien Ogier by 22.4sec. Team-mate Jari-Matti Latvala was a further 6.4sec back in third.
Inconsistent grip this morning and poor visibility caused by bright sunshine piercing the dense tree canopy ensured a demanding welcome for drivers at the FIA World Rally Championship’s first visit to Chile.
They also struggled for confidence with brand new pace notes, which proved far from accurate in many cases after being made in thick fog.
Tänak overshot a corner and stalled his engine at a muddy bridge in the opening speed test but won the next test to grab the lead.
He dominated the afternoon to win both dirt road tests in a car that handled better after mid-leg changes, stretching his lead from a handful of seconds to almost half a minute.
“At lunchtime the engineers did a good job fine-tuning the car. The feeling improved and the confidence is there. It won’t be easy tomorrow but we’ll try to keep focused and hopefully we can keep our rhythm,” said the Estonian.
Ogier made an identical error in the opening special stage but the Frenchman quickly grabbed second. He edged further clear this afternoon on drier roads, enjoying better performance from his Citroën C3 than in Argentina a fortnight ago.
Latvala had a rollercoaster day. The Finn shared fastest time in the opening test with Kris Meeke but several mistakes, culminating in a final stage engine stall when on course for fastest time, kept him down in third.
Championship leader Thierry Neuville held fourth in a Hyundai i20, only 0.7sec behind. His morning push was interrupted when a red flag, issued for safety reasons, halted his attack on the second stage but a notional time kept him in the hunt.
Meeke’s day worsened after a strong opening test. He lacked confidence and slid to fifth in his Yaris, 2.2sec clear of nine-time world champion Sébastien Loeb. Loeb got to grips with his i20 on his gravel debut in the car and climbed to sixth after a powerful afternoon.
Elfyn Evans fell back to seventh in a Ford Fiesta, more than a minute clear of Andreas Mikkelsen. The Norwegian lacked assurance in the faster sections and almost rolled his i20 in the penultimate stage, but he edged ahead of Teemu Suninen in the final test.
The leaderboard was completed by Esapekka Lappi, who lost time with an overshoot.
Saturday’s action is based in similar territory south of Concepción, sandwiched between the Pacific Ocean and the Biobió river. Two identical loops of three speed tests, covering a mix of forest tracks and ore open roads are drive morning and afternoon, covering 121.16km.