WRC - Tänak increases Rally Chile lead as Neuville crashes out | Federation Internationale de l'Automobile

WRC - Tänak increases Rally Chile lead as Neuville crashes out

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2019 Rally Chile - Saturday morning

2019 Rally Chile - O. Tänak / M. Järveoja

Ott Tänak continues to lead the FIA World Rally Championship field on Rally Chile for Toyota, with Sébastien Ogier 34.6s behind in second place. Jari-Matti Latvala is back in third place after briefly falling behind Thierry Neuville, who crashed out of the event on stage eight, Maria Las Cruces.

Three stages were on Saturday morning’s itinerary, with Rio Lia, Maria Las Cruces and Pelun making up a total distance of competitive 60.58 kilometres. There was plenty of sunshine on the first two stages but fog covered some sections of the Pelun test, making visibility tricky at times.

Tänak continued to dominate at the front and gained 12.2s on Ogier across all three stages, also going quickest on Pelun. Ogier struggled for pace by comparison, going fifth quickest on all three of Saturday morning’s stages. This had allowed Neuville to close in, with the Hyundai driver winning Rio Lia to pass Latvala for third and to reduce his gap to Ogier down to only 1.4s.

Neuville’s big push came to a dramatic halt on Maria Las Cruces, as he ran wide over a crest and hit a bank, which sent his Hyundai i20 WRC into a barrel roll. The Belgian driver required medical attention afterwards, though both he and his co-driver Nicolas Gilsoul were able to get out of their car unaided. Hyundai confirmed that neither sustained any fractures or injuries but the crew will not restart on Sunday.

Latvala nearly made the same mistake over the same crest, but the Toyota driver could get away with it. The Finn is 16.4s behind Ogier but was somewhat delayed on Rio Lia stage by his team-mate Kris Meeke, who had rolled his Yaris WRC. Meeke was cruising carefully through the stage and appeared not to realise his team-mate was behind him, though pulled over and waited for Ogier to overtake him later on.

Meeke was able to push for the rest of the loop, completing SS8 and SS9 without a front windscreen, but he lost several minutes, dropping to 11th overall.

Closing quickly on Latvala is nine-time World Rally champion Sébastien Loeb, who scored a stage win on Maria Las Cruces and reduced his gap to the Finn down to 1.1s. M-Sport pair Elfyn Evans and Teemu Suninen are up to fifth and sixth, with Evans 19.6s behind Loeb and Suninen over a minute and a half behind his team-mate.

Suninen was aided by a slow loop for Andreas Mikkelsen, who was the slowest factory WRC driver on every stage except for Rio Lia due to Meeke’s roll. He fell behind Suninen on that stage and was demoted another position by Citroën’s Esapekka Lappi on Maria Las Cruces, 27.2s behind his team-mate Loeb’s scratch time. Eighth-placed Lappi is also closing in on Suninen, finishing the loop only 3.1s behind his fellow countryman, while holding a 13.3s advantage over Mikkelsen.

FIA WRC 2 Pro leader Kalle Rovanperä is ninth overall for Škoda. Both he and Citroën’s Mads Østberg had technical troubles in the morning loop but Rovanperä suffered less, extending his 2.4s advantage to 35.9s. While a damper pressure issue made the handling of Rovanperä’s Škoda Fabia R5 inconsistent from Rio Lia onwards, the rear brakes on Østberg’s Citroën C3 R5 began leaking fluid on the same test, costing him more than half a minute. M-SportFFord’s Gus Greensmith is third in the category ranking.

Alberto Heller continues to lead the FIA WRC 2 class on his home event by 12s over Takamoto Katsuta, with the Japanese driver reducing his gap to Heller with a stage win on Rio Lia. He went faster than Heller again on Pelun, though both were beaten by an impressive stage-winning performance from Chilean driver Jorge Martínez, who had restarted this morning after his retirement on Friday.