This page contains archived information and may not display perfectly

WRC - Ott Tänak closes on Rally Chile victory double


2023 Rally Chile Biobío - Saturday evening

M-Sport Ford World Rally Team driver Ott Tänak has closed in on back-to-back Rally Chile Biobío triumphs after he dominated the second leg of the FIA World Rally Championship qualifier to build a commanding lead.

Tänak, who drives a Ford Puma Rally1 Hybrid, began the penultimate day of action in South America with a small 4.2s advantage over Hyundai Shell Mobis World Rally Team’s Teemu Suninen, but ended the leg 58.3s clear as world title contenders Kalle Rovanperä and Elfyn Evans suffered delays.

Saturday’s stages were contrastingly longer, twistier and much more abrasive than Friday’s. And while Tänak’s rivals leaned towards Pirelli’s soft compound rubber for the morning loop, the Estonian’s decision to take four hard tyres made the difference.

With their tyres showing significant wear by the time they had reached the final stage before lunchtime service, Suninen, Evans and Rovanperä all leaked chunks of time. Tänak, whose hard choice boasted a longer lifespan, took full advantage and extended his lead to 47.8s.

Tyre preservation remained a key factor on the repeated afternoon loop but, with the hard work done, Tänak and co-driver Martin Järveoja were able to manage their lead over Suninen. Victory on Sunday would ensure the pair retain a 100 per cent win record in Chile, a rally which has featured on the WRC calendar just once previously in 2019.

“It's been an extremely good day,” Tänak said. “It's been working in our favour and, on the stages which were bad, we had the advantage to slow down but, when it was needed, we were able to speed up. It's not finished yet, so we need to keep it going tomorrow.”

Neuville was hindered by a slow puncture on the day’s opening stage but passed Toyota driver Evans late in the morning to make it two Hyundai i20 N Rally1 Hybrid cars inside the top three. He and Suninen are split by 13.9s at the completion of leg two and their standings mean that, barring any changes, Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT will be unable to provisionally win the manufacturers’ crown on Sunday.

For Rovanperä, who ended the day 10.7s behind Evans in fifth overall, the wait for a second drivers’ crown s also likely to go on.

The Finn turns 23 tomorrow and carried a commanding 33-point lead into this 11th round of the season, but requires a score 28 points higher than team-mate Evans if he is to celebrate the title with two rallies remaining.

Takamoto Katsuta experienced tyre troubles of his own on SS9 but remained a lonely sixth overall in another Toyota. Behind him was WRC2 leader Oliver Solberg who, along with Gus Greensmith, passed Sami Pajari in the final stage as the Škoda Fabia RS Rally2 driver struggled with tyre wear.

Rally1 rookie Grégoire Munster lost seven minutes when he stopped to change two wheels late in the day. His time loss allowed Nikolay Gryazin to complete the overnight top 10.

Sunday’s deciding leg includes two double-use stages with El Poñen, which is 13.86 kilometres in length, forming the bonus points-paying Wolf Power Stage from 13h15 local time.