Michel Jourdain started Sunday’s first stage in third place with Gianluca Linari and Paulo Nobre firmly in contention. Linari, from Italy, was 23.5s down on the Mexican, while Brazilian Nobre was a further 21.2s behind Linari leaving first service.
Although the gap between Jourdain and Linari for the final podium spot continued to fluctuate, rally rookie Jourdain appeared to be fending off the veteran Italian only to crash out after the flying finish of stage 22. The impact tore a wheel off Jourdain’s Mitsubishi Lancer and resulted in his instant retirement.
With Nobre stopping on Sunday morning when his Lancer developed an overheating problem, Linari was unchallenged on his run to third behind Paddon and the dominant Flodin, who now takes the lead of the P-WRC standings from Armindo Araujo, who was not competing in Japan.
“It’s always great to get a victory but to come away from here with 25 points is also very important for the championship and I’m really pleased to be leading again,” said Flodin, who, along with navigator Goran Bergsten, was fastest in class on 13 stages. “Unfortunately I won’t be doing the next rally in France because I have already done five rallies so I only have Rally GB left. But after not finishing in Finland I really had to get a good result here, which is what I have done.”
Second for Paddon on his debut in Japan keeps his title hopes alive although the New Zealander was frustrated to have dropped time on Friday’s opening stage when he was delayed after narrowly avoiding a rescue vehicle attending to Khalid Al Qassimi’s accident. He also lost ground with a broken steering arm on Friday afternoon and a brake problem on Saturday morning.
“I did a lot better as the event went on,” said Paddon, who was co-driven by John Kennard. “The car improved a lot too. I need to pick up the pace though and try and win in France or GB. I won’t be holding anything back - you can’t afford to with guys as fast as Flodin and Araujo around.”
Despite finishing 15 minutes behind Flodin, Linari was delighted with his capture of the final podium place after spending much of the event adapting to his Impreza, which he’d never driven before the start of the event. The result also made up for the disappointment of retiring on the final stage of Rally Japan in 2008 when his car broke down after going through a watersplash.
“I’m very happy,” said Linari, who was partnered by fellow Italian Massimo Salvucci. “I am not as fast as some of the others and it’s a very hard rally, but I knew it because I was here two years ago. I am very, very happy.”
Local driver Kyosuke Kamata finished fourth with Rui Wang impressing with his pace in fifth as he completed his recovery following a disastrous start to the event after he ran out of fuel following the opening pair of superspecial stages in Sapporo.
Finn Reijo Muhonen relied on SupeRally to complete the list of finishers in sixth place.
Follow this link to see the FIA championship standings after Rally Japan.
"After not finishing in Finland I really had to get a good result here"