Dream 1-2-3 finish at home for Toyota Gazoo Racing

20 November 2023

Toyota Gazoo Racing World Rally Team posted a dream 1-2-3 finish on home roads at Rally Japan yesterday (19 November) to complete a season of success in style. British driver Elfyn Evans claimed victory ahead of teammates Sébastien Ogier and Kalle Rovanperä.

The victory for Evans and co-driver Scott Martin was their third of the season and the ninth from 13 rallies this year for TGR-WRT. The team had already sealed the manufacturers’ title on round 11 in Chile before Rovanperä and Jonne Halttunen secured their second drivers’ and co-drivers’ titles on the penultimate event, the Central European Rally.

This was the WRC’s second visit to the technical and demanding asphalt roads in the mountains of the Aichi and Gifu prefectures around Toyota City. Heavy rain added significantly to the challenge for the first full day of stages on Friday, and this was where Evans built the foundations of his victory.

Two stage wins in the most extreme wet weather on Friday morning helped him open up a lead of almost one minute and 50 seconds over his teammates. Saturday and Sunday 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.

Ogier was close to Evans’s pace at the start but lost some ground after contact with a barrier on Friday afternoon, while Rovanperä faced some of the toughest conditions opening the road. They were separated by less than 20s 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 1m17.7s back as they took a fourth podium of their partial campaign following three wins earlier in the year. Rovanperä was a further 28.8s behind with the eighth podium and 12th top-four finish of his consistent title-winning season.

TGR WRC Challenge Program driver Takamoto Katsuta impressed again on his home roads. 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 more than five minutes, but he fought back with outstanding speed: he was the quickest driver over the rest of the event, winning more stages than anyone else. He recovered to fifth overall by the finish, just 20s away from fourth.

Team quotes

Akio Toyoda (Chairman of the Board of Directors of Toyota Motor Corporation): “To foster the culture of rallying through continuous improvement in a Japanese way and to make the rally an essential autumn tradition in Japan are the things I wished for after Rally Japan last year. This year these things came true. The most impressive was that we were able to use Toyota Stadium as one of the special stages. Being able to watch the top drivers driving up close. Being able to drive in front of that many spectators. It was a rally full of exciting and amazing experiences for both fans and drivers. I believe the powerful performance of rally cars will stay in the children’s memories. Kalle, Elfyn, Takamoto and Jari-Matti became rally drivers as they were so close to rallying when they were kids. I also came to love motorsports because my father often took me to circuits in my childhood. If we continue this kind of rally event, I am sure that motorsport will become a culture in Japan and be more popular. I would like to thank everyone who worked so hard to make Rally Japan 2023 a great success.”

Jari-Matti Latvala (Team Principal): “This is a really fantastic way for us to end the season, it’s really a dream result. We came here with one aim which was to take the victory, and eventually we filled every step of the podium. It was also great to see the way that Taka came fighting back to fifth position. We could not really have hoped for any more from such a demanding weekend like this. Our drivers all did a great job to try and secure the best possible result for the team and to end the season on a high like this. I’m really happy for everybody in the team who has done such fantastic work this year.”

Kalle Rovanperä (driver car 69): “This is a dream result for the team, to have three cars on the podium in Japan. It’s quite amazing that we could do this in such difficult conditions this weekend. I think the team proved once again that we can be consistent and fast. I’m also really proud of Taka as he was driving so well and I was very happy to see his times. The atmosphere this week was so good with so many fans: it was nice to see that people are enjoying the rally and cheering for us. It’s been a really cool way to end the season, especially to be on the podium with a team result like this.”

Elfyn Evans (driver car 33): “It’s really nice to be on the top step of the podium again and even more so when it’s a 1-2-3 for the team. It’s an amazing result and we could not have asked for a much better event at home for Toyota, so I’m really pleased. It’s been a long and difficult weekend. On Friday we had exceptionally tough conditions which we came out of with quite a margin. Since then, it was a different challenge, trying to manage the gap rather than push flat-out, but I’m very happy to get there in the end. Massive congratulations to the team: it’s been an incredible season. The car has been great and I’m proud and happy for everyone.”

Sébastien Ogier (driver car 17): “I wanted to come here and help the team secure a dream result. I think the main target was to just take the victory, so to achieve a full podium is fantastic and it’s maybe even more than a dream result. The conditions brought some big surprises during the whole weekend. We expected the difficult start on Friday and a lot of drivers made mistakes or lost time, including us. Then we realised we were in a strong position to deliver the 1-2-3 for the team and my focus was to bring that result home. But it’s never easy in slippery and tricky conditions like this. I hope the whole team enjoys this moment: they really deserve it so thank you to them.”

1 Elfyn Evans/Scott Martin (Toyota GR YARIS Rally1 HYBRID) 3h32m08.8s
2 Sébastien Ogier/Vincent Landais (Toyota GR YARIS Rally1 HYBRID) +1m17.7s
3 Kalle Rovanperä/Jonne Halttunen (Toyota GR YARIS Rally1 HYBRID) +1m46.5s
4 Esapekka Lappi/Janne Ferm (Hyundai i20 N Rally1 HYBRID) +2m50.3s
5 Takamoto Katsuta/Aaron Johnston (Toyota GR YARIS Rally1 HYBRID) +3m10.3s
6 Ott Tänak/Martin Järveoja (Ford Puma Rally1 HYBRID) +3m28.3s
7 Andreas Mikkelsen/Torstein Eriksen (Škoda Fabia RS Rally2) +7m33.7s
8 Nikolay Gryazin/Konstantin Aleksandrov (Škoda Fabia RS Rally2) +8m49.6s
9 Kajetan Kajetanowicz/Maciej Szczepaniak (Škoda Fabia RS Rally2) +19m25.9s
10 Hiroki Arai/Hiroki Tachikui (Peugeot 208 Rally4) +22m22.7s


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Dream 1-2-3 finish at home for Toyota Gazoo Racing


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