Celebrating second in Rally Chile | Hyundai N
An intense final gravel round of the 2023 WRC season has concluded with our Belgian crew, Thierry/Martijn, bringing home a second place finish at Rally Chile.
The 16-stage event was dramatic and gripping in equal measures, with many twists and turns throughout the rally.
Sadly, our hopes of another double podium were dashed in the penultimate stage, when our Finns Teemu and Mikko retired from the event.
Sweet reward from difficult weekend
It was far from plain sailing for our Belgians; their early road position meant those behind them faced better conditions on the abrasive roads on Friday. They finished the day in fourth overall.
On Saturday, they had the podium in their sights. Tyre strategy proved to be a defining factor, with the harder compound proving to be more advantageous. As others suffered with degradation, Thierry and Martijn were able to progress into third. A storming Sunday saw them claim three stage wins and move into second place to secure their seventh podium of the season.
“It has been a tough weekend for us,” admitted Thierry. “We kept fighting and tried to keep our position and progress to second. It’s a shame the manufacturers’ championship is over, but it is nice to be back on the podium.”
Dramatic battle ends in disappointment
By the end of Friday, Teemu/Mikko had established themselves in a three-way battle for first place. They maintained second place on Saturday, however their Belgian team-mates were not far behind them.
The Finns were on fine form on Sunday, finishing second twice on the first loop to secure two 1-2s stage finishes for our team. The gap to Thierry behind had closed to 6.7 seconds, but unfortunately, disaster then struck; Teemu clipped a tree stump, forcing the Finns to retire from what had been a promising weekend.
“It was a great rally and a nice battle with Thierry, but unfortunately our hard work came to an end because of a small mistake,” said Teemu. “I’m very sorry to the entire team that we were unable to bring home the podium.”
Early doors for Esapekka
It was a premature finish for our second Finnish crew of Esapekka/Janne after an incident in the closing metres of the very first stage. The crew turned into the last corner too early, causing their i20 N Rally1 Hybrid to roll. The damage to their car was too great to continue for the rest of the event.
“I braked too late on the last corner and to try and save the situation, I turned in a bit earlier,” explained Esapekka. “There was a gravel bank just in front of the concrete, and I think the front tyre dug into it.”
Our Team Principal Cyril summarised our tricky Rally Chile: “We once again showed some strong performance in Chile, some very good driving, and some great decisions from the team when the tyre situation became tricky. However there were also some very disappointing moments, when Esapekka retired in the first kilometres and Teemu in the last kilometres of the rally. Eliminating mistakes and improving our overall consistency must be our immediate priority as we head towards the final two rallies of the season.”
“Congratulations to Toyota on their manufacturers’ title win today. They completely deserve it, and it serves as an inspiration for what we need to achieve over the winter to be back on a charge next year.”