The 2023 Rally of Chile returned to the FIA World Rally Championship calendar for the first time since 2019. Based in Chile’s second-largest city, Concepción, the stages took place in the surrounding forests with their technically complicated but fast, smooth cambered roads and along open sections with scenic views of the Pacific Ocean.
Round 11 of the WRC took place between Thursday 28th September and Sunday 1st October and saw Ott Tänak and M-Sport taking overall victory, having made the right tyre choice, while Toyota took the constructors’ title.
The right tyre strategy played an important role in the rally on the more aggressive terrain, with the Estonian dominating the race, and the second day proving to be a pivotal turning point, with Pirelli Scorpion hard tyres making a big difference on the stages.
The 2023 Rallye del Chile Bio Bío will perhaps best be remembered for Toyota taking the constructors’ world title with three rally to spare and for being a race with a few surprises in the final rankings and that it was still an unknown for most of the World Championship drivers, with a new set of challenges each day.
The right choice of tyre on Saturday morning turned out to be very fortuitous as the surfaces became, as expected, more abrasive and tyre-wearing than the previous day. This gave Ott Tänak an advantage and led him to overall victory yesterday, mirroring his Chilean success of 2019, having already closed in on the lead the previous day. But the turning point came at the start of the second day when he went all out for the hard tyres, choosing four out of six, while the other drivers made different and often opposite choices. Toyota, for example, bet on the softs to save the harder compound tyres for the afternoon. It was however a choice that cost Elfyn Evans and Kalle Rovanpera many seconds. Hyundai faired better though, with drivers Teemu Suninen and Thierry Neuville second and third at the end of the day, opting for a mixed strategy on Saturday morning, three hard on five tyres for the Finn, three on six for the Belgian.
On Saturday afternoon everyone went out with a full load of hard tyres, six out of six in which to tackle the surfaces made even more challenging after the first passes. It was back to softs on both the first and second legs on Sunday though.
Terenzio Testoni, Pirelli Rally activity manager commented:
“That Saturday was going to be the key day of the rally was quite clear from the start, as was also highlighted by the analysis of our engineers after the reconnaissance at the beginning of the week, which underlined the abrasiveness and consequent high wear of the tyres on the second day. After all, the teams had no shortage of hard compound tyres: all but one had filled up on them, choosing them for the shakedown and taking their equipment to the max. And in fact, the Scorpion Hard tyres ensured, as always, maximum reliability even on those particularly aggressive and demanding surfaces, while the softs, with their wide working range, did their part very well in stages, where the surface was slippery and less abrasive as on Friday and Sunday, for which they were more suited. It still resulted in an exciting race that left the fate of the drivers’ championship still open. Two asphalt rounds await us, the next of which in Central Europe is totally unknown to everyone”.
In Rally2, Oliver Solberg took top honours, thanks in part to his sensible tyre strategy, while Gus Greensmith in second place and with the points he won in Chile, keeps his chances alive for the race for the season title.
Simon Burrell is Editor of Our Man Behind The Wheel, a professional photographer and former saloon car racing driver.
Photographs courtesy of Pirelli