Japan finally returns to the WRC calendar for the first time since 2010 with an entirely new event following cancellations due to the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 and 2021.
Previous WRC events in Japan have been held on narrow gravel roads, while this year’s rally features an all-new 19 stages that take on winding asphalt roads around the Aichi region. The new location and route are expected to offer a tough test for the crews.
Ogier is set to tackle the rally alongside a new co-driver, Vincent Landais, who has been taking notes for M-Sport’s Pierre-Louis Loubet this season.
“I am very excited for Rally Japan. It was a big disappointment in the last two years that this rally had to be cancelled, as we definitely see it as a highlight for us as Toyota drivers,” said Ogier, the winner of the last Rally Japan in 2010.
“I love the country itself and I 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 to keep my record 100%.
“However, this rally will be totally different to previous ones and probably quite demanding from what we have seen so far. But I always like the challenge of a completely new rally where everyone starts from scratch and has to adapt as quickly as possible.
“I’m sure the experience is going to be special and I’m looking forward to it.”
It’s a view shared by Ogier’s Toyota team-mates Elfyn Evans and newly crowned world champion Kalle Rovanpera.
After a disappointing run to sixth place last time out on the smooth paved roads of Spain, Evans plans to use this event as a springboard for his 2023 campaign.
Elfyn Evans, Scott Martin, Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT Toyota GR Yaris Rally1
Photo by: Toyota Racing
“Personally, the last round in Spain wasn’t the best for me, but I hope we can use the rally in Japan to find some improvements and prepare for next year in a good way,” Evans said.
“I was there in 2019 to reconnoiter some of the stages around the rally area and from what I remember the roads were very demanding with extremely twisty and narrow sections and some faster and more flowing ones. So there will probably be a lot of character changes to deal with during the rally.
Having wrapped up the constructors’ title in Spain, this weekend’s final offers Toyota the opportunity to close the year in style in front of their home crowd without the added pressure of having to fight for championships.
Despite the pressure-free environment, Rovanpera is expecting a “very tough” event to cap off their championship-winning season.
“It will be very nice to finally be able to go to Rally Japan, and especially after a season like the one we have had with the team this year, with such good results and the championships already in the bag,” said Rovanpera.
“It means the team can go to Japan more relaxed and enjoy this home rally, and we will try to push hard and hopefully get a very good result at the end.
“Having seen some stages there three years ago, I think it’s going to be a really tough event.
“There are some wider, smoother roads, as well as some very narrow forest sections that can also be quite dirty. So it’s going to be a tough recce before the rally with roads we’re not used to and a lot of new notes to write.”