Almost 55,000 fans flocked to Japan’s successful two-day candidate rally around the city of Shinshiro last weekend
As well as being the 10th and final round of the national championship, the Shinshiro Rally was observed by FIA officials and WRC Promoter in the country’s quest to secure a place in the 2020 FIA World Rally Championship calendar.
The asphalt encounter, held over 15 speed tests, proved a massive hit with the public and also enjoyed local government support from Aichi prefecture governor Hideaki Ohmura and Japanese parliament member Keiji Furuya.
FIA safety delegate Michèle Mouton and Timo Rautianen were joined at the event by WRC Promoter Oliver Ciesla, as well as representatives from the WRC’s manufacturer teams.
“We went to Japan with positive expectations and were not disappointed. The promotional aspects of the rally were first class and all observers were also pleased by the sporting qualities the competitors faced,” said Ciesla.
“We were already aware of the enthusiasm for WRC in Japan and last weekend reinforced those beliefs. Tens of thousands of fans attended the WRC candidate event and this support, allied with the hard work of the organisers, confirmed our confidence that Japan would be a very worthy addition to the calendar.”
Former Production Cup champion Toshi Arai, who had already secured the national title, won the rally in a Subaru Impreza WRX by 14.3sec from Takuma Kamada. Another former WRC driver, Fumio Nutahara, finished third.
Other notable participants included ex-F1 driver Heikki Kovalainen and Toyota Gazoo Racing’s Juho Hänninen. Kovalainen retired his Toyota GT86 with gearbox problems while Hänninen completed demonstration runs in a Yaris World Rally Car.
The proposed Rally Japan would be based on Japan’s main island of Honshu. It would include stages from the Shinshiro event as well as running close to the iconic Mount Fuji, between Tokyo, Yokohama and Nagoya.