This weekend the sixth round of the World Rally Championship will take place in Chile for the first time, and will be the third round on gravel after Mexico and Argentina. With Sébastien Ogier / Julien Ingrassia and Esapekka Lappi / Janne Ferm, the Citroën Total World Rally Team is well equipped to tackle this brand-new challenge successfully.
Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia, as comfortable as ever tackling new stages for the first time, will be aiming to rack up their fifth podium of the season at this new round in Chile. Another success would add to the overall wins in Monte-Carlo and Mexico and top-three finishes in Corsica (2nd) and Argentina (3rd).
Although the French duo are still fine-tuning certain points with the team as they adapt to the C3 WRC, their win in Mexico and podium finish in Argentina, along with ten stage wins set at these two events, confirm that they are already comfortable in the C3 WRC on gravel. Currently occupying the runners-up spot in the championship standings, they will be starting second on the road on day one. This position should provide them with the beginnings of a line to follow if conditions are dry, and may offer a significant advantage if it rains.
Meanwhile, Esapekka Lappi and Janne Ferm still need to rack up more miles in the C3 WRC on this surface, which is why their approach will be about building their pace during the event, whilst also gradually showing the full extent of their undeniable potential. The Finnish pair, who are one of the least experienced crews in the championship, will for once not be at a disadvantage compared with their rivals. Starting eighth on Friday’s leg, provided the weather stays dry, also means that the roads will be swept clear of loose gravel and dust by those higher up the running order, which should enable them to get their bearings more quickly.
As testing is forbidden outside of Europe, the quick transition from Argentina to Chile ruled out the option of holding any more tests. However, Citroën Total World Rally Team also prepared for Chile during the four-day test session it held in Portugal ahead of both South American rounds. The road surfaces are somewhat different between Argentina and Chile, so Citroën’s engineers used all of the information available to them to adapt the basic set-up of the C3 WRC. They will also be looking to use the shakedown, due to be held on representative roads, to confirm which direction to take.
Pierre Budar, Citroën Racing Team Principal: “There is always something exciting about competing at a rally for the first time. This one looks like it is going to be held on some great roads, which should make for an exciting and unpredictable race, with the crews all on an equal footing regardless of experience. Recce will be critical, as will our ability to adjust our basic set-up. And then of course there’s the weather, which could play a key role. We are determined to provide the crews with the best C3 WRC possible so that we can secure our sixth consecutive podium of the year in Chile.”
Sébastien Ogier, Citroën Total WRT driver: “From what I can tell, the Chilean roads do seem quite different to those we had in Argentina. The stages seem to be fairly smooth and fast, somewhat reminiscent of the ones you get at Wales Rally GB with all these sections through the undergrowth. I hope we’ll have a slightly better performance here. There is still a significant layer of fine gravel on the road surface, which may make life complicated for the early runners. It will be interesting to see whether the rain that has fallen recently limits the extent to which the roads clean or not.”
Esapekka Lappi, Citroën Total WRT driver: “After a tough start to the season, I'm determined to get back on track in Chile and come away with a decent result, and gradually regain confidence behind the wheel. I hope that the weather will be kind to us on Friday; if it stays dry, the roads are likely to clean which would certainly enable us to make the most of being down the running order and get off to the ideal start. The stages look really nice and interesting and the road surfaces look good, or at least they did when they were filmed for the videos provided by the rally organisers.”
2019 RALLY CHILE KEY FIGURES
16 timed stages covering a total of 304.81km
30.72kmon El Puma, the longest stage of the rally, held twice on Friday’s leg
32nd Chile is the thirty-second host country in the history of the World Rally Championship
63 the high number of entries, compared with 23 and 25 respectively in Mexico and Argentina this year
RALLY CHILE SCHEDULE (GMT-4)
Although the rally will be based in the coastal city of Concepción, the stages will be mainly held in the forests located to the south between the Pacific coast and the Rio Biobio, the country’s second longest river.
The roads are likely to clean if the weather stays dry, in which case the timed stages are expected to be fairly flowing and fast. However, the weather may disrupt matters, as happened in Argentina, especially as the month of May is typically one of the wettest in this part of Chile.
The action starts on Friday with the longest leg of the weekend, over a competitive distance of 125.27 kilometres and featuring two runs on El Puma, the rally’s longest stage.
Even more so than usual, the recce and the work done afterwards using the on-board footage, may well prove crucial. Needing to take paces notes for each of the 305 kilometres covered during the weekend, the crews must maintain maximum concentration in order to describe the roads precisely and consistently, in just two runs at limited speed. The crews that manage to do this and who are then able to really go for it on the first competitive runs, showing complete faith in their notes, may create even bigger gaps than usual.