As a result of a successful candidate rally last year and a strong national series, Chile will become the 32nd country to host a round of the World Rally Championship this weekend.
It will be a real leveler as every aspect of this rally is new. Unlike other WRC events there is no data regarding the stages, no car set-up information, a total lack of information on tyre performance and crews will have to prepare their own pace notes from scratch.
Tomorrow the shakedown stage will precede the ceremonial start in the coastal city of Concepci. The traditional WRC street stage will run on Friday evening, also in Concepci. Sixty five competitors will face 1 199km with 17 special stages over 325km, many in deeply forested areas.
Chile is round six of the 14-event 2019 WRC calendar and it is proving to be a very competitive season. The battle is between Hyundai Shell Mobis WRT and reigning champions Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT.
The Korean giant has taken the lead in both the Manufacturers’ and Drivers’ championships. Victory in Argentina for Thierry Neuville moved him to 110 points, a 10 point lead in the chase for the Drivers title.
His team-mate Andreas Mikkelsen’s (30 points) second spot, puts the team on the top of the Manufacturers’ table. Sebastien Loeb (22 points) returns to the team for Chile and could well be a victory favourite. Second on the Drivers’ log is reigning champion Sebastien Ogier with 100 points in the Citroen C3. His team-mate Esapekka Lappi (26 points) is having one of those seasons and will definitely be hoping for better luck this weekend.
Toyota Gazoo’s Ott Tanak (82 points) holds onto third on the Drivers’ table and will be looking for a win to get back into the title fight. Jari-Matti Latvala, 29, is another Toyota driver looking for an improved result, while Ulsterman Kris Meeke (54 points) is in fourth place and has settled well with the Yaris. M-Sport Ford’s Elfyn Evans (43 points) has kept the Ford flag flying in fifth spot.
Hyundai Shell Mobis WRT leads the Manufacturers’ chase on 157 points followed by Toyota Gazoo on 120 points. Citroen Total WRT is on 117 points while M-Sport Ford trail with 78 points. In the new event it will be interesting to watch the results of the teams as they tackle roads that have never been exposed to the full fury of the current World Rally Championship cars.