Tänak ends Saturday in control of Rally Chile

It's been a classy day from the 2019 world champion


M-Sport Ford’s Ott Tänak heads into the final day of Rally Chile with a lead of almost a minute, having won two of the three stages in the Saturday afternoon loop.

Tänak conceded time on SS10, the second pass of Chivilingo, with everyone using hard compound tires and being especially sensitive to managing their rubber amid rising temperatures and a stage surface that was easy to slide on. None were more careful than Tänak, somewhat to his regret, as he ended up going 14.5 seconds slower than Toyota’s stage winner Kalle Rovanperä.

But that meant he had more life in his tires for the next two stages, which he went on to win by 2.8s and 7.8s respectively. He claimed he “push more” on SS11 as his tires were “like new” after the previous stage.

Hyundai’s Teemu Suninen remains on course to match his best World Rally Championship result by being Tänak’s closest rival, although the gap between them grew from 47.8s to 58.3s over the course of the afternoon. He felt he was “saving too much” and “too early” on the final stage after being outpaced by 13.8s.

Thierry Neuville took it very steady on SS10 due to uncertainty on if his tires would last the rest of the day, then felt more confident to push on the next two stages and oversteered into railings on both still managed to be the second fastest driver through SS12.

He revealed that going onto that stage he had been unable to get his Hyundai i20 N Rally1 fired up at first, and that he was also without hybrid boost for two of the afternoon’s tests.

Toyota’s title contenders Elfyn Evans and Rovanperä are fourth and fifth in the overall classification, split by over a minute. Their team-mate Takamoto Katsuta suffered at least one delamination in the afternoon and is in a very distant sixth place. Evans only has 10.7s to make up to get himself onto the podium.

Rally1 debutant and home hero Alberto Heller had a dramatic afternoon in his Ford Puma Rally1 Hybrid, suffering a half-spin on SS10 after oversteering into a corner. At the end of the stage he said it was his worst of the weekend, but then on SS11 – the second pass of Rio Lia – he had a brief stop and complained that he could not drive on his tires because they were getting too hot on the abrasive gravel which was tearing up the tire tread.

His M-Sport team-mate and fellow debutant Grégoire Munster also encountered lots of drama, claiming ice driving “is exactly the same” in terms of grip as the conditions he was facing on worn tires in Chile after SS11, then having to stop for seven minutes and change a wheel on SS12 after nosing into a ditch at speed. He managed to hobble along before making his wheel change halfway through the stage, then made it to the finish at a faster pace – but held up the world champion in the process.

Leaving the WRC2 classification in seventh overall is Oliver Solberg, with he and Gus Greensmith moving ahead of Sami Pajari on the day’s final stage. Pajari had been class leader by 5.7s going onto SS12, but had overworked his tires, and is now 43.9s from the front.