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Thu 23 Nov 2023

Talking points from FORUM8 Rally Japan

The culminating round of this year's FIA World Rally Championship presented some of the most challenging conditions encountered all season. Let's revisit some of the key talking points from FORUM8 Rally Japan.

STAR DRIVE
Elfyn Evans may have secured the outright victory, but it was the performance of his Toyota Gazoo Racing teammate, Takamoto Katsuta, which arguably garnered the most attention on the Japanese hotshot's home event.


It seemed as though Katsuta had suddenly found a new level, clinching fastest times on 10 of the 21 special stages – nearly doubling his all-time stage win tally in just a single event.


On speed alone, the 30-year-old had everything he needed to secure his inaugural FIA World Rally Championship victory. However, he was prevented from doing so after an off-road excursion on SS2 cost Katsuta approximately four minutes as he nursed a damaged radiator. Ultimately, he finished fifth, just over three minutes behind Evans.


MOST MEMORABLE STAGE
A torrential downpour on the opening morning resulted in arguably the most challenging conditions witnessed all season, with standing water and low visibility testing even the world’s best.


SS2, Isegami’s Tunnel, claimed Hyundai’s Dani Sordo and M-Sport Ford’s Adrien Fourmaux, with both drivers sliding off the road after being caught out by a section of standing water in the very same location.


This was also where Evans began to lay the foundations for his triumph, excelling in the deluge to outpace colleague Sébastien Ogier by 4.0sec, who, in turn, went a whopping 20.8sec quicker than the third-placed man Thierry Neuville.


BIGGEST SURPRISE
The wet conditions, combined with the high rate of attrition, provided an opportunity for WRC2 hopefuls to set impressive times in their lower-powered Rally2 machinery.


Reigning champion Andreas Mikkelsen, behind the wheel of a Škoda Fabia RS, rose to as high as fourth overall on Friday morning – the Norwegian even posting a top-three overall stage time for Inabu Dam 1. He slipped back to seventh by Sunday’s finish but still secured the victory in the premier support category.


YOU'LL NEVER BELIEVE IT
Dani Sordo has started FORUM8 Rally Japan twice now, but over the course of two trips to the Asian fixture, he has only managed to complete 32.75km against the clock.


The Spaniard's rally was prematurely halted in 2022 when his Hyundai i20 N caught fire in Isegami’s Tunnel. Astonishingly, it was in that same stage this year where he went off the road