Champs reflect on Japan memories

For a time in Nagakuta last weekend it was 2003 all over again. World Rally Championship heroes Petter Solberg and Tommi Mäkinen gathered to talk about their time together. Times neither will ever forget.

The pair shared two years at Subaru World Rally Team, with which four-time champion Mäkinen concluded his WRC driving career. But as the Finn’s star faded, the Norwegian’s shone brighter than ever as he celebrated a maiden world title in 2003.

The pair were back together, reminiscing about those times during last weekend’s Central Rally Aichi in Japan, the dress rehearsal for the country’s WRC return in 2020. Solberg was a guest while Mäkinen oversaw Takamoto Katsuta’s victory in his role as Toyota Gazoo Racing boss.

Solberg liked what he saw. “Japan was always a special event for me. I won Japan’s first ever round of the world championship and to see what that meant to the fans and to the team and everybody is something I never forget,” he said.

“It’s been too long that the WRC has been away from this place, but you can see from being here just what it means to know the rally is coming back in one year. I think it’s going to be one of the best supported rounds of the season.”

Solberg completed demonstration runs during the Aichi rally and also visited old friends at Subaru Tecnica International.

“I went to Mitaka City where it was a big honour for me to meet president Mr [Yasuo] Hiraoka. Subaru was family for me for a very long time and it was really emotional to see so many of that family and those friends again.

“There were more than 3000 people there at the factory, it was incredible to see so many,” he said.

Rally Japan will form the final round of next year’s WRC when the asphalt fixture runs on 19 - 22 November following a nine-year hiatus.

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