The Toyota installment is at the Toyota Stadium

The Toyota installment is at the Toyota Stadium

Toyota Stadium hosted the first stage of Rally Japan on Thursday, and the Toyota drivers struggled, with the best of them, Takamoto Katsuta, only finishing fifth. It was Thierry Neuville who won in his Hyundai. But it’s only a matter of tenths or seconds of difference, the serious things starting on Friday.

Let’s go for the last rally of the year! Japan hosts the thirteenth and final round of the 2023 season, which saw Kalle Rovanperä crowned world champion for a second time at the end of October at the Central European Rally. At home, Toyota will absolutely want to dominate Hyundai, whether with the Finn, Takamoto Katsuta, Elfyn Evans or Sébastien Ogier, who is competing in his eighth rally of the season. And it’s gone pretty badly, since no driver from the Japanese team finished in the Top 4 of the first special, which consisted of a 2.1km one-on-one course inside the Toyota City Stadium, which can accommodate 45,000 people but was not full. It was the Belgian Thierry Neuville, on his Hyundai, who won in 1’47, dominating Kalle Rovanperä, only sixth in the end.

“This rally is just about fun and trying to get another victory. But it’s not going to be easy given the conditions we had during the reconnaissance. It’s going to be hard, but I’m looking forward to it,” reacted the winner of the day. His teammate Esapekka Lappi finished second, while Ott Tänak, on his M-Sport Puma, completed the podium.

Fourmaux in front of Ogier

The first Toyota driver is Takamoto Katsuta, fifth, three seconds behind the winner. His friend Sébastien Ogier finished eighth, losing his duel against Lappi, and was not very satisfied: “It’s not great to lose four seconds at the start, but that’s how it is. We will have to understand why. Of course, I didn’t take too many risks, but it’s still a big loss.”

The other Frenchman, Adrien Fourmaux, hopes to take advantage of the chance given to him by M-Sport this weekend at the wheel of the Ford Puma, replacing his compatriot Pierre Louis-Loubet, in order to secure a seat for the season. next. He finished seventh in SS1. “It’s really nice to do some special stages in front of all these spectators. Of course it will be completely different tomorrow, but at least it’s good practice“, confided the 28-year-old pilot. On Friday, nine stages will be on the program, including two passing through the “haunted” Isegami tunnel.

Ranking after SS1 (out of 22) – Thursday November 16, 2023
1- Thierry Neuville – Martijn Wydaeghe (BEL-BEL/Hyundai) at 1’47″6
2- Esapekka Lappi – Jann Ferm (FIN-FIN/Hyundai) à 0″7
3- Ott Tänak – Martin Järveoja (EST-EST/Ford M-Sport) à 1″4
Dani Sordo – Candido Carrera (ESP-ESP/Hyundai) at 1″8
5- Takamoto Katsuta – Aaron Johnston (JAP-IRL/Toyota) at 3′′1

7- Adrien Fourmaux – Alexandre Coria (FRA-FRA/Ford M-Sport) at 4″5
8- Sébastien Ogier – Vincent Landais (FRA-FRA/Toyota) at 4″7

Special winner
Neuville : 1 (ES1)

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