The only WRC event taking place in South America, Rally Chile, was dominated in the WRC2 category by crews with Škoda Fabia RS Rally2 cars. In the battle for the win, the standings between the top two drivers changed unexpectedly often with the candidates for victory, Finnish driver Sami Pajari and co-driver Enni Mälkönen, eventually finishing third. The victory went to the Solberg/Edmondson crew.
The Finnish youngster Pajari, who starts in the Fabia RS Rally2 of the Toksport WRT team, clearly enjoys the gravel rallies. The proof of this is his participation in the Rally Chile, where he was again aiming for victory after his bad luck in the previous, Greek, event. The local gravel is very dusty and rough, which has contributed to relatively frequent changes in the rally‘s lead.
In fact, on Friday, the first day of the rally, it didn't look like there´s going to be much drama. The short opening stage on Friday was won by the Oliver Solberg/Elliott Edmondson duo, but then Pajari took the lead and subsequently won all three afternoon stages of the day. However, the 13.3-second lead over Solberg and Edmondson was not overwhelming, which was confirmed by the following day's results.
On Saturday, the time differences between the best drivers in the individual stages were surprisingly vast. Pajari lost almost 40 seconds to the winning Solberg in the first test of the day, passing the lead in the really onto him. At one point he was just over 26 seconds behind his rival. But then the Finnish youngster gradually accelerated and in the tenth stage, where, for a change, Solberg lost almost 20 seconds to the winning crew of Gus Greensmith/Jonas Andersson (also from Tosport WRT), Pajari regained the lead.
However, he didn´t manage to keep the lead. The final (and twelfth overall) test of the day, "Maria de las Cruces", which is almost 29 kilometres long, was to blame. Solberg excelled in it and Pajari lost almost 50 seconds to him. He didn't save his tyres for the longest test of the day. The Swedish youngster and son of former FIA World Rally Champion Petter Solberg thus took the lead despite a somewhat odd handicap: he lost his glasses during the day. Pajari, on the other hand, dropped to third place behind his teammate Greensmith.
And just when Greensmith won Sunday's opening stage, it was clear that a chance to take the lead is more of a theoretical possibility for Pajari. So with co-driver Enni Mälkönen, he concentrated on maintaining his top position in the WRC2 Challenger category. Solberg also maintained his position at the front. He won the second special stage of the day, effectively putting the closing Greensmith away for good. In the final two stages, which cover a total of just over 27 kilometres, he had no chance of closing in on the roughly 23-second gap on Solberg. At the end of the rally, Solberg and Greensmith were separated by 25.8 seconds, and third-placed Pajari, who confirmed his victory in the WRC2 Challenger category (in which he can win the title), ended up more than a minute behind the winner.
The Škoda Fabia RS Rally2 cars then took four positions in the top five of the WRC2 category. Andreas Mikkelsen, who did not compete in Chile, remains at the top of the World Championship standings in this category after eleven of the thirteen rounds. However, he still has a chance to score points in the final two events, while his biggest rivals have only one more chance (in the WRC2 category, drivers nominate seven scoring rounds and the best six count).