WRC Chile: Tanak closing on victory as Hyundai pair fight for second
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Tanak heads into final service with reduced lead
Ott Tanak headed to the final service of the Chilean gravel event with a slightly reduced 51.6-second lead over Hyundai’s Teemu Suninen.
Thierry Neuville came under pressure from charging Hyundai team-mate Suninen, who won the morning’s two stages and reduced the gap between them to just 9.1 seconds.
Drama for Munster before Stage 13
Sunday began with a fast yet technical pass through stage 13, held in overcast conditions. Rally leader Tanak could afford to opt for a measured approach having built up lead of more than a minute. He successfully navigated the test without issue, albeit 10.8s slower than the pacesetter Neuville, as his overall lead was trimmed to 52.3s.
There was, however, drama for M-Sport Rally1 debutant Gregoire Munster before the stage began as he was involved in a road traffic accident that left his Puma with minor damage. “Just before the refuelling out of the service we had a road accident with a car, so we were a bit scared with the right side,” said Munster.
Neuville edges closer to Suninen in battle for second
Keen to overhaul team-mate Suninen to claim second overall, Neuville took the stage win by 4.8s from his Hyundai stablemate to reduce the gap to 9.1s between them. “I had a good stage, I enjoyed it,” said Neuville. “A couple of small moments, I was on the limit on many corners but the car was working nice so I enjoyed the ride.”
Evans’ hopes of stealing third were dealt a blow as he couldn’t match Neuville’s speed and dropped 5s. Title rival Rovanpera, celebrating his 23rd birthday, remained in fifth overall after clocking the fifth-fastest stage time.
Neuville edges closer in Stage 14
Stage 14 (El Ponen), a dress rehearsal for the rally-ending Power Stage, followed and it was again claimed by Neuville. The Hyundai driver beat team-mate Suninen by 2.4s, leaving only 6.7s separating the pair heading into the final loop. Tanak was third-fastest with Evans and Rovanpera completing the top five stage times.
WRC2 battle remains tight
In WRC2, Toksport Skoda driver Oliver Solberg maintained his lead over team-mate Gus Greensmith to hold seventh and eighth positions overall. The gap between the young talents remains tight as the WRC2 battle heads into the final stages.
Tanak in control despite pressure from Hyundai duo
With only three stages remaining, Tanak looks poised to take victory in Chile as long as he avoids any issues. The Estonian has driven a steady rally, building a healthy lead on Friday and then managing his advantage well on Saturday and Sunday.
Neuville’s late charge has made things interesting in the battle for second. He seems determined to get ahead of teammate Suninen, who had been best of the rest for much of the event. Now just 6.7 seconds separate them, so it could go down to the wire.
Evans is too far behind to challenge for a podium spot, while Rovanpera’s focus is on maximizing points towards the championship. He sits comfortably in fifth.
Hyundai rivalry adds intrigue to final stages
The intra-team rivalry brewing at Hyundai has provided some extra intrigue to the closing stages in Chile. Neuville clearly has his sights set on runner-up position and won’t give up easily.
Suninen has driven well all weekend but will need to find a bit more speed to fend off his hard-charging teammate. It sets up a fascinating battle between the Hyundai pair over the final three tests.
Tanak can play it safe in the knowledge his lead should be sufficient barring any major errors. The Power Stage points could also be crucial, so the top drivers will be pushing hard through the final stage.
Toyota chasers left playing supporting roles
For Toyota’s championship contenders, Evans and Rovanpera, this has become more of a damage limitation exercise. Neither driver has had the pace to challenge the Hyundais this weekend.
Their goals now will be to keep their cars on the road and maximize manufacturers’ points for Toyota. Podium hopes evaporated on Saturday for Evans, while Rovanpera’s main aim is protecting his second place in the standings.
Barring problems for Neuville or Suninen it’s unlikely the Toyota pair will be able to gain any positions. But the Power Stage points could still be key as the title fight remains tight.
All eyes on thrilling Hyundai duel for second
As the WRC Chile Rally heads into the final few stages on Sunday, the main focus is on the captivating battle between Hyundai teammates Neuville and Suninen for runner-up spot.
Just 6.7 seconds separates them, and Neuville has the bit between his teeth after winning the last two stages. It’s set up a thrilling intra-team duel that will go right down to the wire.
Leader Tanak just needs to avoid trouble to claim victory, while Toyota’s Evans and Rovanpera are too far back to challenge for the podium places. The tense fight for second is therefore taking center stage.
With only the short Bio Bio Power Stage remaining after the next test, this is Neuville’s last chance to get ahead of Suninen. Expect maximum attack from the Belgian as he aims to overtake his teammate and claim second at the finish.
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