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Wed 09 Nov 2022

Neuville and Evans draw even in Japan shakedown

There was nothing to separate Thierry Neuville and Elfyn Evans on Thursday morning’s shakedown as FORUM8 Rally Japan’s FIA World Rally Championship comeback roared into action.

  • Full coverage from FORUM8 Rally Japan will be available on WRC+ All Live here, including every stage broadcast as it happens as well as key interviews, features and expert analysis from the service park.

The pair posted identical times through the 2.8km Kuragaike Park warm-up, which utilised the same tight and technical roads that make up this afternoon’s opening test but in the opposite direction. 

Neuville was on good form in his Hyundai i20 N and immediately set the pace, going fastest on the opening run and bettering his time over his next four passes. But Toyota GR Yaris star Evans responded late in the session and matched the Belgian’s time on his fifth and final run. 

In terms of season-long pace, it’s Neuville who’s fared the best of the pair. He starts this week’s finale third in the championship - 21 points adrift of team-mate Ott Tänak, who will leave the team on Sunday afternoon.

With the drivers’ title already in the hands of Kalle Rovanperä, the most Neuville can hope for this season is the runner-up spot. 

“It looks challenging out there with some very twisty stages through the forests,” Neuville said. “Even though the roads have been cleaned by the organisers it’s still a bit dirty in sections and it’s going to be tough. 

“I didn’t really know what to expect [coming here] and it’s been a nice surprise. I’ve enjoyed my time in Japan so far and I hope it’s going to stay the same over the weekend.”

Spain winner Sébastien Ogier claimed the final podium spot just five-tenths further back in his Toyota. M-Sport Ford cars locked out the next two positions with Craig Breen and Gus Greensmith both posting identical times in their Pumas. 

Sixth went to Yaris hotshot Rovanperä while Tänak ended 1.1sec down on his pacesetting team-mate ahead of Dani Sordo and Takamoto Katsuta. WRC2 title aspirant Emil Lindholm completed the leaderboard.