Tänak wins WRC Chile, Toyota manufacturers’ champions

After months of struggles, it finally all came good for Ott Tänak and M-Sport


M-Sport Ford’s Ott Tänak took his 19th World Rally Championship win, and second of 2023, on Rally Chile as Toyota wrapped up the manufacturers’ title.

It ended a long wait to return to the podium for Tänak, who last finished a rally in the top three over five months ago. That was his longest podium-free run of rallies since the start of 2016 when he was not even a factory driver.

Tänak first assumed the lead in Chile on the opening stage, but ended Friday morning’s loop in third place. He moved up to second on SS4, then took the lead back from Hyundai’s Teemu Suninen on SS5.

They ended Friday 4.2 seconds apart, and that gap had grown to 47.8s by the end of Saturday morning due to an inspired tire choice by Tänak as he went for four hard compound tires and two softs. His rivals at Toyota suffered in particular, and Suninen’s team-mate Thierry Neuville rose up to third place.

Tänak pulled away even more in the afternoon, and went into the final day with a lead of 58.3s. But the focus was on the battle for second as Suninen led Neuville by 13.9s and Hyundai had ruled out using team orders.

Neuville and Suninen were the two fastest drivers on both of Sunday morning’s stages, and the gap between them shrank to 6.7s. It was Neuville who was fastest again on the second pass of Las Pataguas, while Suninen did not see the finish as he clouted a tree stump on the inside of a right-hander and that immediately sent him sliding off the road and deep into the trees.

That left Tänak looking at a lead of 44.6s over Neuville going into the powerstage, with Toyota’s Elfyn Evans a further 27.5s behind. As long as the drivers had the tire life to attack, the repeat pass of El Poñen was all about trying to get the most powerstage points for the Rally1 contingent.

Rally2 runner Oliver Solberg actually set the benchmark time at first, his 7m39.508s proving too strong to beat for M-Sport duo Alberto Heller and Gregoire Munster. Both were making their Rally1 debuts, and home hero Heller worried he had picked up wheel damage through the final miles of the rally.

Toyota’s Takamoto Katsuta, sat in fifth place overall in the rally, was the first to set a representative time but his 7m17.683s time was way off the pace of his colleagues as championship-leading team-mate – and birthday boy – Kalle Rovanperä went 10.915s faster.

His title rival Evans was 0.5s up at the first split, but 0.4s behind at the second and then two seconds slower than Rovanperä at the third. He finished the stage 3.094s slower, meaning he ended the rally 1m04.1s ahead of his team-mate in the overall classification.

Neuville and Tänak went third and fourth fastest through the powerstage, with the latter’s winning the rally by 42.1s. There was some drama for Neuville as he struggled to get his car started before the stage.

Evans’ third place meant he outscored Rovanperä by two points and has reduced his championship lead to 31 points with two rallies to go.

Sixth place in the final results went to WRC2 winner Solberg, who led an all-Škoda podium lockout with Gus Greensmith and Sami Pajari in seventh and eighth overall. Solberg was comfortably the fastest Rally2 driver on SS16, and therefore got the maximum powerstage points although his hopes of winning the WRC2 title are already over.