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Thu 10 Nov 2022

Ogier christens new partnership with opening stage win

Sébastien Ogier and Vincent Landais kicked off their new partnership in the best way possible - grabbing an early lead on Thursday evening at FORUM8 Rally Japan.

Local ace Takamoto Katsuta ended 1.9sec shy of the frontrunning pace with Gus Greensmith, piloting a Puma, just three-tenths down. Spain’s Dani Sordo was ninth in another Hyundai while WRC2 pacesetter Emil Lindholm completed the early leaderboard.

The stage was cancelled for later runners after local hero Toshiro Arai suffered a heavy crash in his Citroën C3 Rally2. Both Arai and co-driver Naoya Tanaka were taken to hospital for medical checks.

  • Full coverage from FORUM8 Rally Japan is 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 Frenchmen are contesting their first rally as a duo after Ogier parted ways with former co-driver Benjamin Veillas after last month’s RallyRACC - Rally de España. They made their intentions more than clear by winning the curtain-raiser at this final round. 

Just five-tenths of a second blanketed the leading five drivers in slippery conditions at Kuragaike Park, which ran under the cover of darkness. Ogier gained the edge, however, edging Craig Breen’s M-Sport Ford Puma by a single tenth in the 2.8km blast. 

He praised Landais’ work so far but admitted the going will get tougher on Friday when crews face six gruelling tests around Aichi. 

"It's been an intense recce but so far Vincent is doing a good job,” Ogier lauded. “It was already a good test tonight and so far, so good - but tomorrow the real stuff is starting."

Ott Tänak, contesting his final rally for Korean squad Hyundai Motorsport, completed the early podium. He trailed Ogier by a mere two-tenths with i20 N colleague Thierry Neuville only one-tenth behind. 

Fifth place went to Kalle Rovanperä, who took a no-heroics approach to the technical opener. Behind him was GR Yaris colleague Elfyn Evans - another man under no illusions of the challenge which lays in wait.