Rally Chile found its identity this year

Returning after a four-year break, Chile stamped its authority on the WRC last week


Dancing in the streets was very much a thing in Los Angeles last week. And Concepción. And pretty much, throughout Chile. From the Andes to the Pacific, there was nothing but mile-wide smiles.

The World Rally Championship was back.

Such was the passion and fever for Thursday night’s ceremonial start, tomorrow we’re dedicated a separate column to what went down in Los Angeles. Suffice to say, it was magic.

But it was little more than a starter for the three days that would follow.

When we first came to Chile four years ago, the story was about the trek through the mountains the teams were making. Argentina one week, Chile the next (admittedly with a weekend between).

As my esteemed colleague, DirtFish editor Luke Barry, put it: “Rally Chile didn’t just sit in the shadow of the Andes… it sat in the shadow of Rally Argentina too.”


He’s absolutely right. Chile was new, Argentina was a seemingly everlasting classic. Nothing and nowhere in South America could rival the likes of El Condor and Santa Rosa.

By no means was Chile on a hiding to nothing last time out, but winning hearts and minds so soon after an absolute classic was always going to be tough. And running in May, as fall tips into winter, it rained. And then rained a bit more.

This time around it stopped raining. And the sun came out.

Literally, it had rained pretty much solid for six months, only for the cloud to lift 24 hours before the Los Angeles party started.

And on some of the finest sun-bathed roads around, Rally Chile found its place.

Enough from me, let’s tune into a man who saw far more of those now famous roads.

“To be brutally honest, when I left here in 2019, I really didn’t think much of Rally Chile and maybe didn’t really think it should have its place on the calendar,” WRC2 star Gus Greensmith revealed.


“It didn’t offer anything special. This year for sure I completely changed my mind on that idea that it didn’t deserve its place.

“For me, it’s been the most challenging rally of the year: the tire management, the fact some stages we had no tire wear, some stages we had more tire wear than anywhere else in the championship. Incredibly beautiful stages, incredible deceptive corners, it’s a huge, huge challenge.

“We [Oliver Solberg and Greensmith] were actually chatting at the start of the powerstage and we both said, at the end of each day we always look at the videos for the following day and we both said we’ve been too tired to do so, and we’ve had to go to sleep and get up early instead.

“That tells you that it’s been a proper challenge.”

That’s what we’re about in this sport: a proper challenge.

There were some sensational storylines throughout the event – not least Saturday’s sandpaper abrasive roads which killed anything but the hardest of hard compounds.

As well as that, there were the people. It was humbling to feel the warmth and the love of so many fans.

Friday morning was a case in point. Parking up close to the village of La Granja, ahead of the start of the opening stage, the DirtFish car was advanced upon by a couple of locals coming out of a nearby house. Chief diplomat in these situations, Colin Clark was dispatched from the car to placate any parking issues.

“Coooooolin!” came the cry. “We thought it was DirtFish! Welcome, welcome, welcome.”

Only the arrival of Kalle Rovanperä could tear us away from the coffee, cake and even the offer of eggs. It didn’t stop there.

And it won’t stop there. There are millions of hectares for Rally Chile to explore. There’s mile upon mile upon mile of brilliant roads sitting in wait beneath the trees in the Arauco forest complex (reckoned to be the second largest in the world). And, these being logging roads, they’re beautifully made with some of the longest and loveliest corners this side of the Andes.

Chile. Love it.