Ott Tanak scored an emphatic victory at the inaugural World Rally Championship Rally of Chile event, leading home Citroen’s Sebastian Ogier by 23.1 seconds at the finish.
The Estonian moved into a lead he would never relinquish after winning SS2, snatching the lead from Toyota team-mate Jari-Matti Latvala.
He then continued to edge away from now second-placed Ogier throughout the rest of Friday/Saturday which saw his lead rise as high as 34.6 seconds, before backing off in the closing stages to secure his second win of the season.
Ogier struggled with the handling of his C3 WRC throughout the event, with excessive rear sliding being a particular worry, but nonetheless was able to hold off a charging Sebastien Loeb for second place.
Ogier’s runner-up result also moves him to the lead of the championship standings after a horror event for the previous leader Thierry Neuville.
The Belgian was helped by sodden conditions on Friday as the first man on the road, holding a strong third just over a second behind Ogier.
He however then suffered a horrifying series of rolls in SS8 that saw him and co-driver Nicholas Gilsoul retire from the event completely, although aside from a precautionary trip to hospital were fine.
Loeb struggled to make an impression early on Friday but started to make ground on the drivers around him late on day one to start Saturday’s running sixth.
He then continued to make ground over the rest of the event, losing the chance to steal Ogier’s second place following a strong run by the Frenchman on Sunday.
The nine-time WRC champion, therefore, settled for his 118th WRC podium, his first for Hyundai as well as his first not behind the wheel of a Citroen.
Elfyn Evans lacked the pace of the leaders throughout the weekend, but a clean rally saw the Welshman take a strong fourth place, while M-Sport team-mate Teemu Sunninen made it two Fiesta’s in the top five, albeit over a minute-and-a-half behind.
Both Esapekka Lappi and Andreas Mikkelsen suffered from a severe lack of pace in the Chilean stages, the duo bagging sixth and seventh places but far behind their respective team-mates in the final classification.
Kris Meeke initially fought his way up to eighth on the final day following a roll on Saturday that cost the Irishman around eight minutes but was handed a one-minute penalty for competing without a windscreen after being forced to remove it following his incident.
This dropped him to tenth at Rally’s end, elevating WRC2 Pro victor Kalle Rovenpera and runner-up Mads Ostberg to eighth and ninth respectively.
Latvala was forced to settle for 11th following yet another mechanical issue with his Toyota Yaris WRC, this time a gearbox issue scuppering the Finn, although he was able to salvage three power-stage points to add to his championship tally.
Ogier managed to secure second in the power-stage to leave Chile with a ten-point lead in the WRC driver’s standings, ahead of Tanak who’s victory combined with maximum points from the power-stage means he trims eight points from the reigning world champion.
Neuville slips to third following his retirement, although remains just 12 points from Ogier heading to Rally Portugal.