Concepción, Chile - M-Sport Ford World Rally Team’s Elfyn Evans and Teemu Suninen will face a brand-new test at next week’s Rally Chile. Making its debut as part of the FIA World Rally Championship, the Chilean fixture provides an unknown challenge for crews and team alike.
With no return to the workshop in Cumbria, the EcoBoost-powered Ford Fiesta WRCs had to be cleaned, stripped, repaired and re-prepped on site in Argentina. New suspension parts and transmissions were fitted, new panels and fresh stickers applied, and in the case of Evans’ damaged Fiesta the bodyshell was completely repaired.
The re-prepped cars left for Chile on Wednesday evening – trucked across the Andes in convoy – leaving the team with two days to relax. And they did so by organising a group mountain biking tour on one of the championship’s most iconic stages – El Condor!
Team Principal, Richard Millener, said:
“It’s a little unusual for us to have two days off between rallies, but this South American adventure has given us the opportunity to do that, and we spent it doing something we all enjoy – a spectacular mountain biking tour of the El Condor stage.
“A lot of the team never get to see the stages so it was brilliant to be able to see this iconic location and the fantastic scenery that Argentina has to offer – whilst doing a bit of team building at the same time! Despite a couple of ‘offs,’ there were no major mountain biking injuries so we’re all good for Chile!
“I think everyone is now looking forward to seeing what Chile has to offer. The crews will have to make completely new pacenotes – something Elfyn and Scott proved they were pretty good at in Corsica – and it will offer a level playing field – which could work in Teemu and Marko’s favour.
“As for the team, the re-prep went well and both cars are now safely on their way to Chile – the mechanics doing a fantastic job to repair Elfyn’s damage considering we didn’t have a workshop available! The engineers will start their recce on Sunday – to get a feel for the stages and what set-ups we should be running – and then Shakedown will give us our first real indication of what to expect.
“It seems as though the Shakedown stage is fairly representative of the rally so we’ll need to make really good use of that and learn as much as we can before the event gets underway on Friday. We can’t wait to get stuck into this new challenge and bring the FIA World Rally Championship to some new fans in a new country.”
A NEW CHALLENGE
As the 32nd country to host a round of the FIA World Rally Championship, Chile offers a brand new challenge for teams and crews alike. Chilean stages have formed part of the championship before – as part of the Codasur Rally in 1980 – but this is the first time the country has hosted an event in its own right.
For the first time since the inclusion of Rally Bulgaria in 2010, the crews will be tasked with making brand-new pacenotes from a completely clean sheet of paper. The stages have been likened to those in Wales, Portugal, Finland and even New Zealand, but the crews won’t know for sure until they experience them for themselves during the pre-event reconnaissance.
Elfyn Evans could well feel at home in Chile – the stages likened to those in his native Wales. The Welshman is also notoriously strong when it comes to making new pacenotes. In Corsica, where more than half the route was new, he and co-driver Scott Martin were one of the fastest crews – and that’s something they’ll be looking to use to their advantage next week.
Elfyn Evans said:
“This is going to be a brand new experience for everyone. It’s rare to have to write completely new pacenotes like what we’ll have to do next week, but I’m looking forward to the challenge.
“Logistically, it’s also a massive challenge for the team – especially when someone damages the car on the previous event! A big thanks to the mechanics who have been working to repair the car – and hopefully we can repay them with a strong result next week.
“Looking at the video, the stages don’t look too dissimilar to Wales – medium width, flowing and technical. They look really nice to be fair, but we’ll be better placed to judge after the recce.
“Before then, we’re spending some time in Santiago with Pedro [Heller]. We’ve been up to the Andes and we’ve also been out on the bike. It’s a really beautiful landscape and I look forward to learning more about the country – hopefully Pedro can give us a few tips about the rally as well!”
Teemu Suninen could well benefit from a level playing field at next week’s Rally Chile. Partnered by compatriot co-driver Marko Salminen, the young Finn has the natural speed and potential to spring a surprise or two.
Teemu Suninen said:
”Looking at the recce videos from the organisers, Rally Chile appears to be a very smooth event. We’ll have to wait for our own recce before we have a chance to see the stages in more detail, but to me it looks really interesting. I think I will like this event, but we will have to wait and see how things go.
“I think we can assume that the top three drivers will be fighting at the front, but after that the results can be very mixed. As we saw on Corsica, anything can change the game and make it more equal. So I am really looking forward to next week where I want to continue to show my performance.”