Rally Japan: Our top five moments
Dress rehearsal time for Rally Japan
The event, based in Nagakute city, east of Nagoya, is a warm-up for Rally Japan in 2020. Next year the same stages will play host to the final round of the FIA World Rally Championship.
Katsuta, who will be co-driven as usual by Britain’s Dan Barritt, drives a Toyota Yaris World Rally Car in the biggest rally in his homeland since the last WRC encounter in 2010.
He said: “It’s a big honour to drive the car on this event. Rally Japan and WRC coming back to Japan is a very big thing for all Japanese fans and, of course, for Toyota.”
After Friday evening’s start ceremony, 14 asphalt stages and 128 competitive kilometres lie in wait for crews on Saturday and Sunday. Both days run two repeated loops of stages with a short spectator test around the Expo Park, which also houses the service park, on Sunday.
The longest stage of the event is Saturday’s Mikawako test at 14.95km.
Petter Solberg, the first winner of a WRC round in Japan, returns as a guest of Subaru, STI and the event organiser this weekend. The Norwegian will be a man in demand given the huge following he has retained in the country.
Other entries of interest come from Hiroki Arai, who shared the early part of the Toyota Gazoo Racing Rally Challenge Program with Katsuta, in a Citroen C3 R5 and ex-Formula 1 star Heikki Kovalainen, who will drive a Toyota GT-86.
The rally will also be used to train organisers and marshals, and representatives from WRC teams will attend en route to Kennards Hire Rally Australia to make inspections ahead of next year’s event.