No one has ever driven over any of its 16 Super Special Stages (304,81 km timed) and therefore they all lack first-hand references of the car’s behaviour on the ground. The first contact will be on the day of reconnaissance… with a blank book of notes and the final adjustments to be carried out somehow in the blind.
The thrill and level of difficulty are guaranteed this weekend with part of the itinerary cutting across complex, very technical and twisty forest tracks. Wintertime in the southern hemisphere, one cannot rule out an eventual downpour which could turn those tracks into mud rivers in the blink of an eye.
The uncertainty makes it particularly difficult to speak about favourites or venture into predictions. At the end of the day, any of the usual champions; Neuville, Ogier, Loeb, Tänak, Evans, Meeke or Mikkelsen could take the victory.
Hyundai and Neuville chase theirs third straight win
After their recent victories in Corsica and Argentina, Thierry Neuville and Hyundai arrive at the Rally Chile at the lead of their respective classifications. The Belgian driver is 10 points ahead of Sebastien Ogier in the standings and in a great state of form.
At the wheel of his I20 Coupe, he will defend the lead with all his might. Things, however, will not be a walk in the park for the Belgian driver as he is to be the first out on Friday, a well-known disadvantage, particularly on dirt roads.
Andreas Mikkelsen, who took a formidable podium in Argentina, and Sébastien Loeb, will also be defending the colours of the South Korean team next to Neuville.
Following the team’s schedule, the nine-time World Champion is back in action as he takes the wheel from Dani Sordo. The Frenchman and the Spaniard will be sharing the seat of the Asian missile during the current season.
The most successful driver in the history of the WRC, whose best result this season was a fourth place in Monte Carlo, dreams of climbing up to the top of the podium in Rally Chile.
Hyundai Motorsport currently leads the constructor’s standings with 107 points, 37 ahead of Toyota and 40 of Citroën.
Ogier wants his 5th consecutive podium
The star driver of the French team, Sebastien Ogier, hopes to continue with the extraordinary consistency he has demonstrated so far. To date, the Alsatian driver has taken four podiums– victories in Monte Carlo and Mexico, second place in Corsica and third in Argentina – in five races.
The six-time world champion, however, is not 100% satisfied with the performance of his C3 WRC. He has previously voiced the need for this to be improved in some respects if they want to prevent Hyundai and Neuville from climbing out of reach in the standings.
Without getting into much detail he did mention the most problematic areas to be the chassis and the differential. Ogier has nonetheless acknowledged that finding a solution to these issues could take some time.
At the end of the day, he believes his car could potentially reach a higher top speed than he does at the moment.
Toyota & Tänak aiming to put an end to their unlucky streak
Toyota’s main man, Ott Tänak, arrives at the Rally Chile 2019 in need of a good result that allows him to shorten the distance with the top. He is third on the standings with 100 points, 18 from Ogier and 28 from Neuville.
Despite a very strong start of the season in which he took three consecutive podiums – third in Monte Carlo, victory in Sweden and second in Mexico -, his performance has since been undermined. His poor results in Corsica (sixth) and Argentina (eighth), ousted him from the lead.
His great talent, however, is sure to bring him back to the fight for the sceptre sooner or later. One just has to look at his impressive performance during the second half of 2018 to remain optimistic about the Estonian’s prospects.
Ford M-Sport and Evans after their third podium
The Ford M-Sport team is hoping to leave the bitter Argentinian episode behind, where they had to retire after suffering an accident. The British team hopes to recover the good sensations they had in Mexico and particularly in Corsica.
At the French island, the Fiesta WRC led by Elfyn Evans garnered a magnificent second place, which could have been a victory if it wasn’t for an unfortunate puncture on the last day. To score his third podium of the season will be the main objective of the Welshman.
Images of Rally Chile 2019: Hyundai, Citroën, Toyota, Ford & WRC.