WRC Ott Tanak carves out a useful lead after opening day of Copec Rally Chile
COPEC RALLY CHILE, May 9-12, 2019
2019 FIA World Rally Championship, round 6
For immediate release
Friday, May 10th, 2019
OTT TÄNAK CARVES OUT A USEFUL LEAD AFTER OPENING DAY OF COPEC RALLY CHILE
· Ogier reaches night halt in second place; Latvala displaces Neuville for third
· Rovanperä and Østberg battle it out in WRC 2 Pro; Alberto Heller on top in WRC 2
TALCAHUANO (CHILE): The Estonian duo of Ott Tänak and Martin Järveoja mastered tricky driving conditions and demanding new special stages better than their rivals to carve out a lead of 22.4 seconds after day one of Copec Rally Chile, the new sixth round of the FIA World Rally Championship (WRC).
The Toyota Yaris WRC driver won three of the day’s six stages, as he bids to hunt down series rivals Thierry Neuville and Sébastien Ogier in what is already developing into a thrilling three-way title race.
Tänak said: “Lunchtime (today), the engineers did a good job with the car and the feeling improved and the confidence is there. It will not be easy tomorrow. We keep focused and hopefully we can keep our rhythm.”
Slippery stage surfaces, a low sun filtering through tall trees and causing inconsistent visibility and a lack of accurate pace notes generally hampered everyone’s progress on Chile’s first morning in the WRC. These issues, coupled with the fact that the stages were new and had been driven on the reconnaissance in foggy conditions, made it an extremely challenging morning.
Conditions improved somewhat in the afternoon with the sun climbing higher and the stage surfaces drying to an extent, but it was not a straightforward day by any means.
Ogier, the six-time defending World Champion, finished the day in a solid second position in his Citroën C3 WRC, but Neuville slipped behind Jari-Matti Latvala on the fifth stage and reached the night halt in Talcahuano just seven-tenths of a second behind the Finn and in fourth place.
Ogier said: “It has been a challenging day but we are here. Ott was very fast and we could not match his speed. We will keep trying tomorrow.”
Kris Meeke was not pleased with his day’s performance in a third Toyota and admitted that he hadn’t found a really competitive rhythm from the outset, but the Ulsterman did enough to hold fifth overall.
Nine-time World Champion Sébastien Loeb belied his recent lack of gravel rallying experience to begin an impressive climb up the leader board as the day progressed. The Hyundai driver moved in front of Welshman Elfyn Evans, courtesy of the second quickest time on the fifth stage, and ended the day in sixth with the fastest time on the last special.
Evans’s Ford team-mate Teemu Suninen was subdued for long periods and he too struggled to find a fast pace on the new South American stages. The Finn did manage to pass Norway’s Andreas Mikkelsen on stage five, however, but a delay reversing off a barrier on the street stage meant that Mikkelsen regained eighth place at the night halt.
Suninen’s fellow countryman Esapekka Lappi was clearly struggling with his confidence and rounded off the top 10 in the second factory Citroen.
A fascinating duel developed between Finland’s Kalle Rovanperä and Norway’s Mads Østberg for honours in WRC 2 Pro. Mads led at the midday break, but a resurgent young Rovanperä was quickest on the afternoon gravel specials and reached the overnight halt with a lead of 2.4 seconds.
An engine issue under throttle and later power steering problems pushed England’s Gus Greensmith further behind his rivals, but he retained an advantage of 50.8 seconds over fourth-placed Bolivian Marco Bulacia.
Alberto Heller, Takamoto Katsuta and Benito Guerra were the men to beat in WRC 2. Local hero Heller reached the night halt 24.5 seconds ahead of the Japanese with series leader Guerra in third. Heller’s brother Pedro had rolled his Ford out of contention on the first stage of the morning.
Friday – as it happened
After a grey and overcast start to a typical autumn morning in southern Chile, the first special stage in the country’s WRC history was the 17.11km of El Pinar, running in a narrow loop south of Lota.
Series leader Neuville was first on the road and he posted the target of 11min 39.5sec. Latvala and Meeke set the joint fastest time of 11min 35.9sec to snatch the lead, Lappi slid wide after a water splash and dropped over 20 seconds to the leaders and Loeb struggled on his return to slippery gravel terrain. More importantly, all the World Rally Cars survived their first Chilean examination.
Østberg drew first blood from Rovanperä in the WRC 2 Pro category, but it was a dismal start for local hero Pedro Heller, who rolled out of contention after transmission problems had curtailed shakedown on Thursday.
El Puma is the longest stage of the event at 30.72km, but Neuville was red-flagged after around six kilometres because of spectator safety concerns later in the stage. The disgruntled Belgian was later handed a notional time of 21min 17.0sec because the action resumed after a 15-mnute delay.
A flying Tänak got his claws into the special and went on to set the quickest time of 21min 10.4sec to snatch a 2.9-second lead over Ogier on a test where everyone complained of treacherously slippery conditions, a polished stage surface and low sun causing visibility issues between the trees.
Østberg continued to control the WRC 2 Pro section, but there was further Chilean disappointment when Jorge Martinez retired his Škoda from WRC 2.
Espigado (22.26km) was the last stage of the loop and Neuville benefited from his fresher tyres to card the fastest time and move to within half a second of Ogier and 6.6sec of leader Tänak. Issues with pace notes made in foggy conditions, a lack of confidence and the tricky sun peeping through the trees and causing a strobing effect were factors high on the list of complaints for the leading crews at the end of the first ever loop of stages in Chile.
Østberg, however, was generally upbeat and the Norwegian returned to Talcahuano with a lead of 10.9 seconds over Rovanperä in WRC 2 Pro. Greensmith complained of a misfiring engine under throttle but was running well ahead of fourth-placed Bulacia. Alberto Heller, Takamoto Katsuta and Benito Guerra were locked in a tussle for WRC 2 honours. Heller held a 4.4-second lead over the Japanese at the lunch halt.
Brighter and drier conditions were prevalent at the start of the re-runs of Puma and Espigada and Neuville was able to tackle Puma at speed for the first time. Despite not knowing the latter part of the stage at speed, he carded a time of 21min 03.6sec but dropped 6.4 seconds to Ogier.
Tänak was in stunning form and a second fastest time of the rally enabled the Estonian to storm into a 17.3-second lead over the defending World Champion. The third fastest time by Latvala helped the Finn to displace Neuville and snatch third, but Mikkelsen, Suninen and Lappi were struggling to find a competitive rhythm.
Rovanperä wiped out Østberg’s WRC 2 Pro advantage with a fastest time that enabled the young Finn to move 1.9 seconds ahead of the more experienced C3 R5 driver. Power steering issues plagued Greensmith’s Ford and he leaked over half a minute to the front-runners.
A rampant Latvala missed out on the potential stage win through Espigado after stalling at a late junction, but he retained third place behind Tänak and Ogier. Mikkelsen very nearly rolled his Hyundai after sliding wide, but all 11 World Rally Cars survived the opening five gravel stages. An impressive Loeb was second quickest and displaced Evans to take sixth place, as the back markers faced the daunting prospect of entering the forests in fading light and darkness for their remaining two stages.
The day’s action concluded in darkness with a short 2.2km blast through an asphalt super special stage on the outskirts of Concepción, complete with its own purpose-built jump to entertain the crowds in the grandstand.
Neuville set the second quickest time behind stage winner Loeb to close in on Latvala, but Tänak conserved his lead. An upbeat Loeb said: “We enjoy to do doughnuts sometimes. This car is like a video game! You can play with it..”
There are two groups of three special stages on Saturday morning, starting with a run through the 20.90km of Rio Lia 1 at 08.08hrs and continuing with Maria Las Cruces 1 (23.09km) and Pelun 1 (16.59km) at 09.08hrs and 10.20hrs, respectively.
Rio Lia is the furthest south of the trio and starts over 70km away from the overnight halt and winds its way along the side of the river to a finish at Las Corrientes. Refuelling in Arauco precedes a run towards the coast to the start of the second one at Santa Maria Las Cruces and a 3.53km liaison guides teams to the start of the Pelun special. This timed test winds its way to a finish by the main 156 highway on the side of the Rio Biobío to the east of the town of Lota.
After a return to midday regroup and service at Talcahuano, the three stages are repeated at 14.08hrs, 15.08hrs and 16.20hrs.
2019 Copec Rally Chile – positions after SS6 (unofficial @ 20.15hrs):
1. Ott Tänak (EST)/Martin Järveoja (EST) Toyota Yaris WRC 1hr 24min 12.8sec
2. Sébastien Ogier (FRA)/Julien Ingrassia (FRA) Citroën C3 WRC 1hr 24min 35.2sec
3. Jari-Matti Latvala (FIN)/Miikka Anttila (FIN) Toyota Yaris WRC 1hr 24min 41.6sec
4. Thierry Neuville (BEL)/Nicolas Gilsoul (BEL) Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC 1hr 24min 42.3sec
5. Kris Meeke (GBR)/Sebastian Marshall (GBR) Toyota Yaris WRC 1hr 24min 59.3sec
6. Sébastien Loeb (FRA)/Daniel Elena (FRA) Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC 1hr 25min 01.5sec
7. Elfyn Evans (GBR)/Scott Martin (GBR) Ford Fiesta WRC 1hr 25min 14.2sec
8. Andreas Mikkelsen (NOR)/Anders Jaeger-Amland (NOR) Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC 1hr 26min 20.9sec
9. Teemu Suninen (FIN)/Marko Salminen (FIN) Ford Fiesta WRC 1hr 26min 21.9sec
10. Esapekka Lappi (FIN)/Janne Ferm (FIN) Citroën C3 WRC 1hr 26min 31.1sec
11. Kalle Rovanperä (FIN)/Jonne Halttunen (FIN) Škoda Fabia R5 (WRC 2 Pro) 1hr 28min 07.0sec
12. Mads Østberg (NOR)/Torstein Eriksen (NOR) Citroën C3 R5 (WRC 2 Pro) 1hr 28min 09.4sec
For further media information:
Copec Rally Chile 2019, Media Centre, Puerto Marina Convention Centre, Talcahuano, Concepción, Chile. Contact Alvaro Lavin (firstname.lastname@example.org), Rodrigo Castillo (email@example.com), Lluisa Torres (firstname.lastname@example.org) and Neil Perkins (email@example.com).