What we learned from Rally Chile 2023

Ott Tänak's long-awaited return to the top step was far from the only Rally Chile talking point


Whether it was Ott Tänak’s first World Rally Championship win for half a year, Teemu Suninen’s premature exit or the crazy tire wear on Saturday, Rally Chile had a little bit of everything.

In short, it was more than worth the four-year wait since it last ran in 2019.

We’ve quite a lot to get through from last weekend, so we’ll waste no further words on an introduction! You know the score by now – here’s what we learned from Rally Chile 2023:

Tänak/M-Sport is still a winning partnership


As Martin Järveoja put it: “The last six or seven rallies we haven’t been able to leave with good emotions.”

But that all changed at the weekend as he and Ott Tänak returned to the top step for the first time in nine rallies and almost eight months.

Which begs the question, are Tänak and the Ford Puma Rally1 suddenly the package to beat in the WRC? No. The Estonian wasted little time in pointing out that this was a “different” win that’s “not been about performance at all, it’s been pure management”.

But Chile did prove that the Puma Rally1 still has what it takes to win rallies.

Chile’s challenge is unique


Nobody really knew what to expect from Rally Chile last weekend, as it was effectively a brand-new rally. Yes the WRC had been there before, but only once four years ago.

Plus that first edition was held in May whereas this was in late September/early October, right in the middle of a South American spring. Nearly all the stages were brand new as well.

Last time, running just after Argentina, Chile perhaps became known as that WRC event on the other side of the Andes which was a little bit like Rally GB. No chance of that now as the event has unquestionably developed its own character.

The major challenge was the abrasive surface, which chewed through tires even when the temperatures weren’t particularly high. That was enough to pose more than a few headaches and catch out the best in the business (Toyota) with tire choice.

Chile is here to stay for the next few years in the WRC, which is no bad thing given the evidence of this weekend.

CER just got more important for Suninen


For 14 of the event’s 16 stages, Teemu Suninen was in inspired form. That was until the slightest of misjudgements, where he just got a tiny bit too greedy in choosing his line for a sweeping left hander, undid all his good work.

Keen to show what he could do in a straight fight against team-mate Thierry Neuville, Suninen was losing time but holding his own.

Did the pressure of the fight contribute to Suninen getting his line wrong and nibbling that tree stump? Only he will know. But the end result does apply significantly more pressure upon him for his next outing at the Central European Rally, which was already being viewed as an important event for the Finn, a chance to strut his stuff on asphalt.

Lappi and Loubet’s seasons spiralling

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Remember them? So much unfurled since Esapekka Lappi and Pierre-Louis Loubet’s early exits that we wouldn’t blame you for forgetting about their weekends.

After all, neither Lappi nor Loubet will be in a hurry to remember Chile.

The overwhelming positive is both drivers escaped from their respective shunts unharmed, as they were both big crashes. But that’s where the positives end.

Contextually it was even worse for Loubet, who only completed one stage in Greece before his water pump failed and then only got through two in Chile before his accident. He now finds himself behind Rally2 driver Oliver Solberg in the championship.

Lappi’s out of form now too. The crash here was Lappi’s third rally-ending shunt of the season, and second in three rallies, which leaves him with a lot of work to do to end the season on a high.

Both need clean, trouble-free rallies in Central Europe.

Mikkelsen remains the WRC2 favorite


Both Gus Greensmith and Yohan Rossel really needed to win in Andreas Mikkelsen’s absence in Chile, if they wanted to put the Norwegian under pressure.

Instead, it was Oliver Solberg who took the honours ahead of Greensmith who managed second (and third on the powerstage), Rossel struggled but recovered to fourth.

All this means that despite contesting one fewer round than his rivals, Mikkelsen is remarkably still the favorite for the title when all three meet later this month at Central European Rally.

What we do know for sure though is Kajetan Kajetanowicz is now out the running with his retirement,  making the contest a three-horse race.

Munster’s got more to prove


By all accounts this was a bit of a messy weekend for Rally1 debutant Grégoire Munster.

Whether it was co-driver Louis Louka forgetting his pacenotes for the first loop and reading them from his iPhone, holding up Kalle Rovanperä on Saturday’s final stage after stopping to change two self-induced punctures or suffering a road traffic accident on Sunday morning, it’s an event the Luxembourger will never forget for all the wrong reasons.

But he did make it to the end, and that’s what counts.

It’s very hard to get a read on Munster’s performance from just one event in this car, particularly one as compromised as Chile turned out to be, so his asphalt outing – believed to be next time out in Central European Rally – should tell the world more about what Munster is really capable of.

He’s already considering changing his car number for that one, having competed with ‘unlucky’ #13 in Chile.

Evans is unlikely to deny Rovanperä the title


The fight to become 2023 World Rally champion is now officially a two horse race, with both Thierry Neuville and Ott Tänak completley out of contention.

That said, it really would take something extraordinary for Rovanperä to be denied a second championship on the bounce.

Really, we’ve known this since his victory all the way back in Estonia. His non-score and Elfyn Evans’ perfect 30-pointer in Finland added some spice back into the mix, but Rovanperä has always had just a bit too much in-hand to let this slip.

Chile was the perfect case in-point. Behind Evans all weekend, Rovanperä’s damage limitation was superb as he dropped just two points to his rival. That means that if Evans doesn’t beat Rovanperä in Central Europe, Rovanperä is world champion.

In many ways you do have to feel for Evans – who himself is performing extremely well at the moment – that he finds himself up against a driver as fast and as polished as the now 23-year-old.