Sat 18 Nov 2023

Evans hones in on FORUM8 Rally Japan win

Elfyn Evans is poised to deliver Toyota Gazoo Racing its first-ever victory on home soil after he maintained a commanding lead over team-mate Sébastien Ogier in FORUM8 Rally Japan’s penultimate leg.

The strides made by Evans when he dominated Friday’s leg meant he could afford to avoid taking any unnecessary risks on the drier – but still treacherously slippery – roads faced today. It even began to snow at one point late in the day but, to the competitors’ relief, the shower was short-lived.

Evans’ vigilant approach allowed Ogier to slash his lead by almost 40 seconds over the course of the day, but the Welshman still has 1 minute 15.0sec in hand over his colleague heading into Sunday’s six-stage decider.

Taking the spoils here would be sweet revenge for the 34-year-old after wheel damage in 2022 gifted Thierry Neuville the victory. Neuville, who drives a Hyundai i20 N, crashed on Friday so is no longer in contention.

“It's been pretty okay,” said Evans. “Getting caught in some rain in the penultimate stage was not so nice, and we were maybe too careful in some places, but it was always going to be a bit tricky to judge our speed today with such a big gap."

Newly crowned champion Kalle Rovanperä brought up the rear of the GR Yaris-dominated top three, trailing Ogier by 25.6sec at the close of play. The Finn should have nothing to worry about come Sunday as his closest challenger, Esapekka Lappi, languishes more than one minute behind him in a Hyundai i20 N.

Having been hindered by technical gremlins on Friday, Ott Tänak clawed himself and his M-Sport Ford Puma up the leaderboard to reach the overnight halt in fifth overall. The Estonian will be keeping a keen eye on his wing mirrors, though, with Takamoto Katsuta only 14.9sec behind.

Katsuta lost a large chunk of time when he crashed his Toyota early in the rally, but the Japanese ace has been on an upward trajectory ever since, racking up seven benchmark times so far.

WRC2 leader Andreas Mikkelsen placed seventh overall in a Škoda Fabia RS Rally2, while Grégoire Munster, Nikolay Gryazin, and Kajetan Kajetanowicz completed the top 10. As it stands, Kajetanowicz is on course to clinch the WRC2 Challenger title.

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