Rally Japan: Preview
TOYOTA GAZOO Racing to celebrate global success on home roads
The TOYOTA GAZOO Racing World Rally Team will have the chance to celebrate its hugely successful 2022 season on home roads when the FIA World Rally Championship returns to Rally Japan on November 10-13.
The championship’s first visit to Japan since 2010 will be the first time that a factory Toyota WRC team has contested a round of the series in the company’s home country. TGR WRT will arrive there fresh from securing a clean sweep of championship titles over the previous two rounds: Kalle Rovanperä was crowned the youngest ever drivers’ champion alongside co-driver Jonne Halttunen in New Zealand last month, before the team then wrapped up the manufacturers’ title in Spain two weeks ago.
Rovanperä will be competing in Japan for the first time, as will his full-season team-mate Elfyn Evans. Completing the TGR WRT line-up is Sébastien Ogier, who won the most recent edition of Rally Japan in 2010 and claimed the last two of his eight world championship titles with Toyota before stepping back from full-time competition this season. After taking victory in Spain with Benjamin Veillas, Ogier will be joined in Japan by young, up-and-coming co-driver Vincent Landais.
TGR WRC Challenge Program driver Takamoto Katsuta will also have the chance to compete in his home round of the WRC for the first time at the end of a strong and consistent full-season campaign under the TGR WRT Next Generation banner.
While Rally Japan was previously run as a gravel event in the northern island of Hokkaidō, its return will be held on asphalt roads on the largest island, Honshu. The stages will take place mostly in the mountains of the Aichi and Gifu prefectures on highly demanding roads that are technical and narrow in character. Many sections will run through forests with constantly changing grip levels.
The service park will be located at Toyota Stadium in Aichi, near the city of Nagoya. Both shakedown and Thursday evening’s opening stage will be held in the nearby Kuragaike Park. Friday will be the longest day of the rally with 130.22 competitive kilometres to be tackled across two loops of three stages to the north-east of Toyota City. Saturday features a trio of repeated stages to the south-east, plus two passes of a super special stage in Okazaki City to round out the day. A total of five stages form the final day on Sunday, starting and finishing with the Asahi Kougen test that hosts the rally-ending Power Stage.
At its home rally, TOYOTA GAZOO Racing will also demonstrate two concept cars. Both cars will be driven in Okazaki prior to SS13 on Saturday, with two legendary rally drivers at the wheel. The GR YARIS Rally2 Concept will be unveiled for the first time at Rally Japan. It is a concept car being developed according to the Rally2 regulations that form a popular and competitive category in which many teams compete, with the aim of becoming fully involved in customer motorsports in rallying as well as in racing. The GR YARIS H2, an experimental concept using hydrogen to fuel a combustion engine, will also showcase its performance following its debut run at Ypres Rally Belgium in August. Juha Kankkunen will drive the GR YARIS Rally2 Concept with another four-time world champion Tommi Mäkinen to drive the GR YARIS H2.
As part of Toyota’s initiatives to explore new options for achieving carbon neutrality and developing a sustainable motorsports industry, clean energy derived from hydrogen fuel cells will be used in the service park at Toyota Stadium and at the Okazaki stage, making the most of experience gained in the Super Taikyu racing series in Japan and at Ypres Rally Belgium.
Jari-Matti Latvala (Team Principal)
“The return of Rally Japan to the WRC is something that we have been looking forward to for a long time and it will be very exciting for us to go and compete at the home rally of TOYOTA GAZOO Racing. After such an amazing season for our team it will be great to go there with a bit less pressure, to really enjoy it and put on a show for the fans with our GR YARIS Rally1 HYBRID and try to get the best result possible. We need to be prepared for what looks like a very challenging rally on twisty mountain roads which are really narrow in places, and with autumn conditions and leaves on the road which will make it tricky for the drivers with a lot of grip changes.”
Sébastien Ogier (Driver car 1)
“I’m really excited for Rally Japan. It was quite a big disappointment the last two years that this rally had to be cancelled as we definitely see it as a highlight for us as TOYOTA GAZOO Racing drivers. I love the country itself and have some good memories from there: I only competed there once before but it was a win, so there is also some pressure to try and keep my 100 per cent record! This rally will be totally different to before though and probably quite a demanding one from what we have seen so far. But I always like the challenge of a completely new rally where everybody starts from scratch and has to adapt as quickly as possible. I’m sure the experience is going to be a special one and I’m looking forward to it.”
Elfyn Evans (Driver car 33)
“I think the whole team is looking forward to finally have the chance to compete at Rally Japan. Of course the target will be to try and get a good result on home ground for TOYOTA GAZOO Racing. Personally the last round in Spain was not the best for me but hopefully we can use the rally in Japan to find some improvements and prepare for next year in a good way. I was there in 2019 to recce some of the stages around the area of the rally and from what I remember the roads were very demanding with sections that were extremely twisty and narrow and others which were more fast and flowing, so there will probably be a lot of changes in character to deal with during the rally.”
Kalle Rovanperä (Driver car 69)
“It’s going to be very nice to finally be able to go to Rally Japan, and especially after a season like we have had with the team this year with such good results and the championships already in the bag. It means the team can go to Japan more relaxed and enjoy this home rally, and we will try to push hard and hopefully have a really good result at the end of it. Having seen some stages there three years ago, I think it’s going to be a really tricky event. There are some wider and smoother roads as well as some very narrow forest sections which can also be quite dirty. So it’s going to be a difficult recce before the rally with roads that we’re not used to and a lot of new pacenotes to write.”
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