That was a longnights adventure. The FIA World Rally Championship finished in Japan. Thierry Neuville clinched victory near Aichi. Hyundai Motorsport team had set 1-2 podium places. As authentic as the Japan Rally is, it deserves its own slot on the calendar. Here are the highlights that we noted from the event.
Main claimers to win Japan Rally
We focused on the few crews that have the highest chance of winning the Japan rally. That’s what we noted on the eve of the event. Thierry Neuville was among the fastest. The Belgian and Toyota Gazoo racing driver Elfyn Evans both started the weekend strong and immediately stood out during Thursday’s shakedown. Takamoto Katsuta, the other Toyota driver, was also impressed with the wonderful atmosphere.
It’s needless to say, the atmosphere in Aichi was unforgettable. Rally fans in Japan had been waiting for the WRC challenge for almost three years in a row. Finally it happened. Japanese driver Katsuta is taking the wheel of local manufacturer and championship winner – Toyota. What could be more enjoyable?
Sebastien Ogier wanted more. At the beginning, another Toyota was leading. However, with new co-driver Vincent Landais, he soon had tyre issues.
Ogier was very clear when complaining about his Pirelli tyres. It was for that reason. Due to his puncture on Friday, he was eliminated from contention. To move up from tenth to fifth was already a small win. Sebastien Ogier finished Rally Japan fourth
Hyundai Motorsport drivers.
It was for this reason that Dani Sordo was called to battle. Mr “asphalt maestro” was in the right shape to finish at least on the podium, but something went wrong on Friday. Sordo’s Hyundai i20 N Rally1 caught fire on SS4 and all he could do was watch it burn until the last screw was rusted out.
Thierry Nauville had no time to watch his main rivals. Furthermore, he had been observing how Ott Tänak so closely on Saturday and particularly on Sunday. Tänak is leaving the team after the 2022 WRC season, so he had no reason to give Neuville the full advantage.
We predicted that Sunday would be a game changer, since we spent the last two legs with raindrops. But Neuville had no worries as he cruised to the finish 1min 11.3sec ahead of Tänak. This was enough to secure an amazing victory in Japan. While Ott Tänak still didn’t have enough power, he finished second. Hyundai Motorsport didn’t expect a double podium, but it was the most appropriate way to end the FIA WRC 2022 season.
The situation might be different if Elfyn Evans hadn’t suffered real heartbreak.
Dark horse Elfyn Evans.
In short, that’s a huge drama. It is something that has been happening to Elfyn Evans for the last three years. At a time when he is so close to his goal, terrible things are happening to him. And then bam! Almost everything he has achieved with difficulty disappears.
Elfyn Evans had hoped to finish second or even win Rally Japan, alas. On Saturday Evans had an advantage of 5,9 seconds. The unfortunate incident occurred on Sunday when Evans and co-driver Scott Martin miscommunicated, which resulted in the Toyota’s left rear wheel nudging a kerb and the crew being punched. It took more than a minute and a half to change the wheel. There was a rush, but the game for the podium was over. Evans finished fifth, behind Sebastien Ogier.
Elfyn Evans might be regarded as the main loser of the Japan Rally. It’s unfortunate that there are still things we weren’t expecting.
We did not expect it.
Takamoto Katsuta, for us and for the entire crowd of rally fans in Japan, came in third place. Miracle nor less.
In Japan, we believed that Kalle Rovanperä could overcome anything, but the young rally champion had the same issue as Ogier. The reliability of Pireli tires was far from perfect. Rovanperä got puctured on Saturday. It took about three minutes to change the wheel. This is something we didn’t expect as well as a few interesting facts about the Japan Rally organization that you may find interesting.
About the Japan Rally 2022 organization
All weekend, organizers of such a coveted event in the land of rising sun had been nervous. But as it says Murphy’s First Law: Anything that can go wrong will go wrong. Thus, there are many questions for the organizers in terms of safety.
The descent of Craig Breen on the SS4 was not the only one. It turned out that this segment of the distance was not the most dangerous. The leader of the WRC2 standings, 20-year-old Sami Payari, almost collided with a civilian car driving towards him. After a very long delay, the special stage was canceled for safety reasons.
After the FIA’s inspection it was clear that the organizers were at fault.
It was a lot of problems that brought the rain on Sunday, when there was another need to check the grilles of drainage ditches, since they had gotten lost.
All of these issues are legitimate, but let’s admit the return of the Japan rally to the WRC calendar has been remarkable. This is mainly due to the amazing and incredible route. That challenge is probably unrepeatable.
Japan Rally 2022 is an authentic challenges.
Our goal was to compare any route that may be similar to the Japanese rally route. Corsica? Germany? Nor of these. These roads are very tricky. The temperature changes depending on the daytime and location. When compared with the surface of the road in the open area, the road surface in the forest has a clear difference in temperature. These are also all very narrow and have barriers that make it impossible to pass at high speed without making a mistake. That is why the tire issue came first, or another explanation for why there were so many mistakes and punctures.
Picturesque views are another pros in the Japan Rally pocket as well as the unpredictable weather.
Japanese Rally was the final round of the FIA World Rally Championship season 2022, and it was a success. Despite the fact that it is Toyota’s home, Hyundai cars came more reliable and fast. Thierry Neuville and Ott Tänak’s one-two finish is just proof of the above.
What’s next? Next WRC The next WRC rally is scheduled for 19-22nd January 2023. Traditionally Rally Monte Carlo will open the new season. Before the date there will FIA met Gala awarding.