It was an all Toyota podium during the 2023 WRC season-finishing event at Rally Japan.
Toyota recently finished off yet another immensely successful year in WRC by scoring a dominant 1-2-3 podium finish in front of their home crowd during the 2023 season-ending event at Rally Japan. Elfyn Evans eventually took the overall win in what was a predominantly wet and wild race weekend, with Sébastien Ogier and Kalle Rovanperä rounding off the remaining podium places.
This victory at the season-ender marked the third in the season for Evans and co-driver Scott Martin, while also being the ninth from 13 rallies this year for the Toyota team. The Japanese manufacturer previously sealed this year’s the manufacturers’ title on round 11 in Chile, while Rovanperä and Jonne Halttunen secured their second drivers’ and co-drivers’ titles during penultimate event at the Central European Rally.
Heavy showers added significantly to the challenge for the first full day of stages on Friday during the WRC’s second visit to the technical and demanding asphalt roads in the mountains of the Aichi and Gifu prefectures around Toyota City this year. Evans however masterfully managed to secure two stage wins in spite of this inclement weather by the afternoon, and hence helped him to open up a lead of almost one minute and 50 seconds over his team-mates as their rivals hit trouble.
Saturday and Sunday meanwhile brought further changeable and slippery conditions, but Evans managed both days expertly to seal the win. In the process, he and Martin also became championship runners-up.
2020 and 2021 WRC champion Sébastien Ogier on the other hand was close to Evans’ pace at the start, but lost some ground after contact with a barrier on Friday afternoon. Rovanperä also faced some of the toughest conditions opening the road too. They were split by less than 20 seconds after Friday, but both opted to focus on maximising the team’s result rather than their own positions in the tricky conditions.
Ogier and co-driver Vincent Landais finished 1m 17.7s back from Evans as they took a fourth podium of their partial campaign, following three wins earlier in the year. Rovanperä then finished a further 28.8 s behind from them to secure the eighth podium and 12th top-four finish of his consistent title-winning season.
As for TGR WRC Challenge Program driver Takamoto Katsuta, his hopes of a second successive Rally Japan podium were dashed with a spin and contact in the extreme conditions of Friday’s first stage, losing over five minutes. But he fought back with outstanding speed and became the quickest driver over the rest of the event, winning more stages than anyone else. He recovered to fifth overall by the finish, just 20 s away from the fourth place Hyundai driven by Esapekka Lappi.