A new, unknown country in the WRC calendar comes with a taste of adventure. The co-drivers spent last couple of days building pacenotes from a scratch, drivers and engineers rushed to find the ideal car settings and tyre choices to match the untested tracks. The crews will be headed into the deep woods, fast and hard gravel roads, as well as open coastal roads.
Watch this space to stay up-to-date on latest news and results. This article will be continuously updated until Sunday. And if you want to know more about Rally Chile and everything it’s got in store for our crews, read our summary article.
Thursday’s shakedown was the first opportunity for the crews to see how well they prepared their cars and how the drivers will cope with local conditions. While the weather wasn’t as wild as two weeks ago in Argentina, the crews were once again greeted by wet conditions. In the RC2 class, the fastest time was posted by local driver Jorge Martinez Fontena, driving a FABIA R5. Jorge races in Chile since he was young and knows the roads very well.
ŠKODA Motorsport’s Kalle Rovanperä, who competes in the WRC 2 Pro category in a privateer FABIA R5, was just 0.3 seconds slower. He was another 0.3 seconds ahead of his main rival Mads Ostberg and we can surely expect an interesting battle.
There are eight ŠKODA FABIA R5 cars on the Rallye Chile’s starting field. Marco Bulacia Wilkinson, the other driver fighting for WRC 2 Pro points in ŠKODA Motorsport colours, posted seventh best time in his class. Fourth fastest ŠKODA driver was Benito Guerra Jr. on 12th place. This evening, all the crews will attend the ceremonial start and on Friday, the rally starts for real.
As we expected after the shakedown results, the fight for the lead in the Friday’s leg of Rally Chile in both WRC 2 Pro and the whole RC2 class, was mostly between Kalle Rovanperä and Mads Ostberg. Slowly drying tracks turned out to be a challenge for most drivers. It was hard for the crews to find confidence to drive flat-out on unknown stages with dangerous mud lurking in many places. It’s especially hard in the fast sections that are in many ways similar to Rally Finland.
„I lost time against my rivals because I didn’t feel comfortable where there was no grip. Now, it is drier, but there are places where you can’t tell if it is actually muddy. I probably need to change some details in my car”, said Kalle Rovanperä after SS3. Still, he keeps the second place comfortably and is less than 11 seconds behind leading Mads Ostberg.
In the afternoon part of Friday’s, Kalle apparently found his confidence, as well as the proper settings of his FABIA R5. Spectators gathered around beautiful tracks of Rally Chile were able to watch a great battle. In more than 30 kilometre long El Puma, Rovanperä posted the fastest time in the RC2 class, erased Ostberg’s lead and moved to the first place, 1.9 seconds ahead of his competitor. He repeated his victory in the next stage, Espigado, and by the end of the day, he increased his lead to still tight margin of 2.7 seconds. In the evening’s super special stage, it was Ostberg who posted the best time, decreasing Kalle’s lead by 0.3 seconds.
The second best FABIA R5 driver was Marco Bulacia Wilkinson, who finished fourth in WRC 2 Pro. Benito Guerra was third in WRC 2.
Right in the Saturday’s first stage, Rio Lia, Kalle Rovanperä managed to win and increase his small lead gained the day before. Not only was he quick, but his biggest rival, Mads Ostberg, fought brake problems since the morning’s first stage. In the last stage of the morning run, Pelun, Ostberg managed to beat Rovanperä by 2.7 seconds. But even so, Kalle finished the first part of the day leading both WRC 2 Pro category and RC2 class, 35.9 seconds ahead of his rival.
“It is great to keep leading, even though one of our shock absorbers feels a bit strange. It might be a pressure problem because the car doesn’t feel the same in every corner. I am waiting for the service park to get it checked“, commented Kalle Rovanperä his morning’s performance.
The battle for the first place continued in the afternoon, when Ostberg managed to find his pace again. He narrowly won both SS10 and SS11 and closed the gap to the leading crew on ŠKODA FABIA R5 by another four seconds. Rovanperä noticed his drive very well: “I see that Mads is pushing again. It seems the tyre choice we made is working well in both our cars.” In the final stage of the leg, Pelun, the young Finnish crew left nothing to the chance and won, gaining 4.2 seconds and increasing the lead to 36.1 seconds.
Another FABIA R5, driven by Marco Bulacia Wilkinson, finished the Saturday’s leg in the fourth place of WRC 2 Pro (and the whole RC2 class). Benito Guerra Jr. spent the whole day fighting for the third place in the WRC 2, which he managed to regain after falling back to the fourth place in the morning.
Before the Sunday’s leg, the all-important first victory of the season was withing Kalle Rovanperä’s grasp. Leading by more then half a minute ahead of his Norwegian rival, he could afford to drive more carefully, but he still had to make sure he doesn’t let Mads Ostberg gain too much. And Ostberg really did cur Kalle’s lead in each stage – by 1.1, 3.7 and 1.3 seconds. Even so, the young Finn entered the final power stage Bio Bio with comfortable margin of 27.8 seconds. That was too much of a gap for Ostberg to erase, even though he managed to gain another 4.2 seconds.
We congratulate the crew of Kalle Rovanperä and Jonne Halttunen, who managed to win both the WRC 2 Pro category and the whole RC2 class of the scenic and challenging Rally Chile, bringing home important points for ŠKODA Motorsport. The second works crew, 18 years old Marco Bulacia Wilkinson and Fabian Cretu, managed to finish fourth. After an accident of Alberto Heller and retirement of their main rival, Martin Scuncio, another ŠKODA FABIA R5 crew of Benito Guerra Jr. and Jaime Zapata Ortega could celebrate a second place in WRC 2 class.