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WRC Rally Japan

Toyota WRC drivers free to “fully attack” to claim elusive home victory

Toyota drivers will be free to “fully attack” at this weekend’s World Rally Championship season finale in Japan as the manufacturer bids to score an elusive victory on home soil.

Sébastien Ogier, Vincent Landais, Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT Toyota GR Yaris Rally1

The Japanese brand has dominated the 2023 season, winning eight of the 12 events to date, and sealing a drivers’ and manufacturers’ title double for the third consecutive season.

Toyota claimed a sixth constructors’ crown in Chile before Kalle Rovanpera wrapped up a second drivers’ title at Central European Rally last month.

However, the team still has one objective still to complete, which is to win Rally Japan for the first time. On the event's return to the calendar last year, Toyota lost out to rival Hyundai as Thierry Neuville led a 1-2 while Takamoto Katsuta finished third.

As it currently stands, only one Japanese brand has won Rally Japan previously. Subaru triumphed in the inaugural edition of the WRC event in 2004 with Petter Solberg.

After tasting defeat on the asphalt stages around Toyota City last year, Toyota team principal Jari-Matti Latvala says his team is even more motivated to secure victory this weekend.

Toyota will once again field a quartet of GR Yaris entries for Rovnapera, Elfyn Evans, Sebastien Ogier and Katsuta.

“Now that we have secured all three titles once again, the clear target that remains is to win Rally Japan, which is one of two home events for us,” said Latvala. 

“Last year, we could get Takamoto onto the podium in front of his home fans which was really nice, but everybody is really motivated to get the win this time.

Elfyn Evans, Scott Martin, Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT Toyota GR Yaris Rally1

Photo by: Red Bull Content Pool

Elfyn Evans, Scott Martin, Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT Toyota GR Yaris Rally1

“We will have all four drivers there and they don’t really need to worry about the championship anymore, so they are free to fully attack the rally and target the victory.

“It’s a challenging event because even though it’s a second consecutive rally on asphalt, the roads in Japan are very different to Central Europe.

“Without the chance to test before the rally, we need to be able to adapt the car setup accordingly.”

Ogier, who has claimed three wins this season, says he feels a “responsibility” to deliver this weekend.

“I’m looking forward to Rally Japan. Even though we have already achieved our main targets for the season as a team, as a Toyota driver I still feel a responsibility to try to deliver a home win in Japan,” said Ogier, who finished fourth in Japan last year.

“That would be a very special and important result. Personally, I hope it will be better than our last rally, and hopefully the conditions in Japan will be a bit more enjoyable.

“We saw last year that there are not so many opportunities for cutting, so the conditions can remain a bit more stable for everybody regardless of starting position. Hopefully we can have a good fight and end the season on a high.”

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