How Ott Tanak Won Rally Chile
Ott Tanak and his Toyota Yaris had a nearly perfect Rally Chile by creating a comfortable lead on day one that he could control to the finish. This is the safest way to win a WRC round. It’s not easy, but Ott Tanak can make it look so.
Conditions on the Friday stages were not favourable with rain and low grip levels causing issues for many drivers. Tanak was one of the affected drivers on the first stage El Pinar. Though finishing 5th was more down to his Yaris not restarting quickly after a stall. He responded quickly setting a fastest time on SS2. Despite not feeling at one with the car, only Ogier could get close to his time. And whilst he was 3rd over the first Espigado test he was only inches off a fastest time. At midday service his mechanics fine tuned a more responsive car for Ott to take on the afternoon stages.
SS4 El Puma 2 was the biggest stage win of the rally. Confidence was high and over the 30.72km, Tanak was on average a third of a second quicker per kilometer than the nearest time set by Sebastien Loeb. It helps that when the going is good to do it over the longest stage of the rally. Ott aced another dominating stage win on SS5 Espigado 2. Going into the Concepcion Super Special Tanak had built a 23 second lead. Though his time on the SSS was not slow it was more important to finish than impress the crowds with risky driving.
The Saturday stages were generally a lot drier favouring the later runners. As leader Tanak was the last of the WRC cars. Over the morning loop the stage times were closer but he was never more than 0.05s/km off the pace. He won one of the three – SS9 Pelun 1 and had been carrying two spares all the time.
The afternoon saw a difference in tyre strategy. Ogier was on mediums whereas Tanak was wearing hard tyres. Perhaps a little fear of another failure was worrying him but this was the sensible choice. Ogier set the pace on SS10 Rio Lia 2’s 20.9km, hinting at an attack of the lead. Though Tanak immediately made up for lost time. He even came through the 23km of SS11 Maria Las Cruces 2 fastest overall.
He dropped time to a stage win on the last stage SS12 Pelun 2 as thick fog descended quickly. As the reduced vision also hit closest rival Ogier the lead took no damage. It was another strong day, balancing maintaining the lead and ensuring the car stayed in the race.
Saturday had been an excellent day for Sebastien Loeb who now found himself in a close battle with Ogier for second position. Tanak knew both would be pushing hard in the fight. However the days stages were less than 59km in total. He had over half a second per remaining kilometre over Ogier. He passed through SS13 Bio Bio 1 a little too easily losing time to Loeb at a pace that couldn’t continue. SS14 and 15 were closer but it was clear he was protecting his tyres. He wanted maximum attack on the power stage.
The Power Stage – SS16 Bio Bio 2
See the route and elevation profile at Rally-Maps.com.
Fearing nothing, not even risking the rally win, he went full whack through the Power Stage. It was an all out attack on the deficit of Championship points caused by losses in previous rounds. The car was responsive, the confidence was high and the tyres of his nearest rivals in the rally had been deteriorating quicker all morning. Thierry Neuville, also a strong Power Stage performer, was not running. Tanak had a good chance of a strong result.
Ott won every point to point split bar the shortest. On this 1.1km downhill stretch he was only a tenth of a second slower than teammate Kris Meeke. But the work he had done across the stage was more than enough. He finished 1.3 seconds quicker than Ogier. A fine margin over a rally, but daylight when talking of a Power Stage win.
The 30 point maximum haul in Chile jumped Ott a place in the Championship over retiree Thierry Neuville. Although Ogier finished second and now leads the championship, Tanak and his Yaris did everything they could. It was their first win since Sweden when they should have won two of the following three events. No doubt they will go to Portugal with the same intent.
Featured image credit @OttTanak.
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