Ott Tänak and Martin Järveoja reigned supreme on Rally Chile with a superb victory, winning seven out of sixteen stages along the way and holding an uninterrupted lead from stage five.
It is the Estonian crew’s second WRC event victory in a Ford Puma Hybrid Rally1 car and also their second victory in Chile making them back-to-back winners and undefeated in the country.
Rally Chile presented a unique and challenging set of stages that many crews referred to as ‘real driver’s stages’, requiring man and machine to work in perfect synchronisation to extract every ounce of performance from their cars. Tänak and the M-Sport team did so from the get-go, notching a stage win on the opening stage of the rally, seizing the initiative in the fight for victory. A couple of top-three stage times followed, seeing Tänak briefly lose the lead, but he clawed back his advantage by the fifth stage of the rally, sealing it with another stage win. The last stage of the day saw yet another fastest time meaning Tänak and Järveoja would head back to the Concepcion Service Park with the overnight lead.
Saturday’s stages were the toughest of the rally, with a rough and abrasive surface shredding the tyres equipped to all of the Rally1 field. It meant the loop would be a fight of both speed and tactics as Tänak headed out with four hard and two soft tyres – the only driver to do so. His decision paid off as his rivals faltered and Tänak emerged from stage nine with a mammoth 47.8 second lead, he was starting to look untouchable out front. The afternoon loop was no different as the crews went out for a repeat of the tough loop of stages. Although now all on the same tyres, Tänak was sublime, managing his lead while delivering another two fastest times, ending the day almost one minute ahead of the field.
By Sunday, four stages lay between the Estonian and his first victory in almost six months, a result all at M-Sport were desperate for. Tänak drove with precision and consistent pace, arriving at the start line of the Rally Chile Power Stage with 44 seconds in hand. A calm and competitive time saw him take fourth on the Power Stage, delivering a hard earned, well-deserved victory that all at M-Sport could be proud of.
Tänak’s teammate, Pierre-Louis Loubet opened the rally with a fourth fastest time followed by third on the second stage of Rally Chile setting his sights on the fight for the podium. The Frenchman was setting fastest split times until a miscommunication in the car caused the crew to go off the road in dramatic fashion and out of the rally. A tough end for the young Frenchman after what had looked like such a positive start.
Alberto Heller made a dream Rally1 debut on his home rally with thousands of fans flocking to the Los Angeles ceremonial start to witness the Chilean take the start flag. Heller tackled the rally with enthusiasm and grit, having to fight to the very end on Saturday to try and repair his car in dramatic circumstances. He was forced to retire in the middle of the media zone, mere metres from the technical zone check-in, after going over the limit on time. He was able to restart on Sunday and finish the rally. Heller’s pace improved throughout the weekend and he has indicated that Rally Chile could only be the start of his love affair with the Puma Hybrid Rally1.
Gregoire Munster had a trying weekend in Chile as he learned the ropes at the top of the ladder in the most powerful rally cars in WRC history. After holding a steady seventh overall for much of the rally, the number 13 car would eventually finish 13th overall, after losing over eight minutes on the final stage on Saturday. The Luxembourg driver will return with the team for the Central European Rally at the end of October.
Richard Millener, M-Sport Ford World Rally Team Principal, said:
“The team has had a difficult few months and everyone was working so hard to try and get another victory. I am really happy to see it pay off for them all this weekend. The determination and passion from them really helped us to give Ott and Martin what they needed to secure the top spot of the podium. Of course we couldn’t achieve this without them, so hats off to a fantastic showing of their speed and skill. Ott is certainly still showing he is among the best in the world. It takes a long time to get to Chile, but it has certainly been worth it! Memories were made here this weekend none of us will forget in a hurry.”
Ott Tänak, 2023 Rally Chile winner, said:
"It’s definitely nice to have a positive outcome from a week after what feels like a long time. Altogether it is definitely quite close to a perfect weekend. It seemed somehow very different from what we have to do normally. It was not too much about pure performance at all, it was a lot about management and how to get through the loop, it was a different kind of challenge. These positive vibes are always helping so I am sure it’s been a great week for the team.”
Alberto Heller, 15th on Rally Chile, said:
“It was amazing, it was a really nice event for Chile to have all of these people in the stages, it was fantastic. From my part it was an amazing experience. To drive one of these cars is not so easy, today and Saturday I was opening the road which was much more learning for me but I enjoyed it. I reached my goals and my target was to finish the rally without troubles and here it is [the car] just as M-Sport gave it to me which I am really happy about. I hope in the future I can repeat the same experience.”
Gregoire Munster, 13th on Rally Chile, said:
“If you take into account everything that happened, I mean the pacenotes, tyre delamination, a small off from my side and today the front brakes. It wasn’t easy, maybe we have to change the car number for Central Europe. In general everything that happened, happened for a reason. I think it was a good learning from our side and all the issues we had, we managed to solve them. We have been first on the road for two days cleaning the stage and that’s something I have never done before in a Rally2 car. That was a good thing we learned, then all that power you have to try and transform into traction here is so difficult because on one side there is so little grip and then also it is so demanding for the tyres.”
Published 01 October 2023