The Toyota Yaris WRC driver and co-driver Martin Järveoja won two of Saturday’s six gravel special stages in the forests and hills between Chile’s Pacific coast and the Bio Bío River and will take a lead of 30.3 seconds into the remaining four stages on.
Tänak said: “I was able to manage my pace. These are difficult stages and the last stage, it was raining and there was a big fog in the middle. We are safe and that is important. The lead is more than yesterday, so everything is going in the right direction.”
A canny afternoon tyre choice enabled Citroën’s Sébastien Ogier to fend off a potential challenge from both Jari-Matti Latvala and nine-time World Champion Sébastien Loeb over the first two stages. But the weather changed markedly on SS12 and lost time meant that the defending champion headed into the night halt just 5.1 seconds in front of Loeb. The latter had inherited third when technical issues forced Latvala out of contention on the final special of the day after he had clipped a stone.
M-Sport Ford World Rally Team’s Elfyn Evans and Teemu Suninen held solid fourth and fifth positions in their Ford Fiestas and remained on course for valuable Manufacturers’ points for the Blue Oval.
Finland’s Esapekka Lappi overtook Norway’s Andreas Mikkelsen earlier in the day and was able to reach the end of the leg in sixth in the second Citroën, although seventh-placed Mikkelsen had been instructed to up his pace during the afternoon by Hyundai management, even though the goal was to reach the finish.
Thierry Neuville and Nicolas Gilsoul emerged relatively unscathed from a horrific high-speed multiple roll 13.9km into the first pass through the Maria Las Cruces stage. The Belgian’s Hyundai i20 WRC got out of phase on a right kink in the road after a flat crest, clipped the side of the track on the left and cartwheeled multiple times to stop on its side in the middle of the special. The stage was red-flagged and the crew were taken to hospital in Concepción by helicopter for medical checks. Mercifully, they only suffered bruising and shock in the accident, but the i20 was extensively damaged.
Neuville said: “Nicolas and me are good. We had quite a big shock this morning. We had a proper check up and we are both fine. The pace notes said slight right, flat over crest. I was a little bit wide, hit the edge and we rolled the car. I felt we were going to hit the rear. It was quite a deep ditch. The situation is not what we wanted. If we are not first in the championship after this rally we have a better road position for the next one. We see that the new generation cars are very strong and we are really pleased for that. I did not expect to be a crash dummy, but I am happy for that. Just a few stitches in my leg, that is all.”
Kris Meeke was unfortunate to roll his Toyota on a pretty innocuous corner on the first stage of the morning. He lost over six minutes in the stage, but managed to continue with a battered car and no windscreen, the Ulsterman remarkably setting the fourth fastest times on the next two stages. With the Yaris repaired for the afternoon loop, Meeke finished the day in 10th overall.
A damper issue failed to prevent Finland’s Kalle Rovanperä from maintaining his WRC 2 Pro advantage over Norway’s Mads Østberg. His more experienced rival suffered brake issues on the first stage of the day and reached the night halt 36.1 seconds behind the young eighth-placed Finn. England’s Gus Greensmith and Bolivian Marco Bulacia continue to hold third and fourth.
Alberto Heller and Takamoto Katsuta continued to lock horns throughout the second day and the Chilean driver held a slender WRC 2 lead of 7.3 seconds over the Japanese after 11 stages. But Katsuta beat the local driver by 13.3 on the last stage of the day to earn a six-second lead. Series-leading Mexican Benito Guerra managed to overhaul Argentina’s Martin Scuncio on SS12 to regain third place.