Thu 16 Nov 2023

Neuville lays down the gauntlet on FORUM8 Rally Japan Shakedown

2022 FORUM8 Rally Japan winner Thierry Neuville has picked up where he left off from one year ago, setting the quickest time on Thursday morning’s shakedown on the outskirts of Toyota City.

The Hyundai Motorsport driver blitzed his rivals on his fourth and final run of the 2.75km warm-up stage as the class of 2023 were greeted by sunny, warm conditions – conditions that are predicted to change drastically on Friday morning.

 

“We have no pressure, that is for sure,” opined the relaxed Belgian at the end of his first run through shakedown. “Our contenders have a lot more pressure this weekend,” he continued, referencing 2023 manufacturer champions Toyota Gazoo Racing, who would dearly love to claim victory just mere kilometres from their global headquarters.

 

Toyota drivers filled out the next four spots in the top five, with Elfyn Evans leading team-mates Sébastien Ogier, Takamoto Katstua and newly crowned world champion Kalle Rovanperä respectively. All four of the Yaris pilots referenced Friday conditions at stage-end, hinting that predicted rain in the morning will play a major role in the outcome of the season finale.

Moments before announcing he will be running a partial programme with Hyundai in 2024, Esapekka Lappi rounded out the top-six on shakedown, going 1.9sec slower than team-mate Neuville.

 

Stepping back into the Hyundai in Tarmac-spec for the first time since Rallye Monte-Carlo this weekend is Dani Sordo. The Spaniard wasted little time at reacquainting himself with the i20, sharing the seventh quickest time with Adrien Fourmaux, exactly two seconds down on team-mate Neuville.

 

It was an impressive showing for Fourmaux who admitted he was using his six runs of shakedown for ‘testing’ with the Japan season-closer providing the Frenchman with his maiden start in M-Sport Ford Puma Rally1 this year. He was two-tenths of a second quicker than team-mate Ott Tänak who suggested his Puma was “somehow not driving at all at the moment,”  following his first of three shakedown runs.

Action begins proper at 19:05 this evening with tens of thousands of fans are expected to turn out at Toyota Stadium in downtown Toyota City for a side-by-side 2.10km blast through the super special stage.

Latvia
Starts: Thursday, July 18, 2024 at 4:31:00 AM
Italy
Starts: Friday, July 26, 2024 at 7:00:00 AM
Hungary
Starts: Saturday, July 27, 2024 at 6:00:00 AM