Rally Japan – Day Three Report
Rally Japan – Day Three Report
Aichi, Japan November 19, 2023
Hyundai Motorsport has concluded the 2023 FIA World Rally Championship (WRC) with Esapekka Lappi and Janne Ferm confirming fourth place at Rally Japan.
The final day featured three stages, each tackled twice, with no mid-day service.
Asahi Kougen (SS17/22, 7.52km) opened and closed the day, doubling as the event’s Power Stage.
Conditions in Ena City (SS18/20, 22.92km) and Nenoue Kougen (SS19/21, 11.60km) remained incredibly tricky, with grip levels hard to predict.
Lappi and Ferm found themselves at risk of a charging Takamoto Katsuta on Sunday morning, with the gap between them dropping to 16 seconds heading into the remote tyre fitting zone.
A fantastic run through SS20 Ena City 2 was enough to keep the Japanese driver at bay, as well as confirm a Hyundai Motorsport 1-2 finish in stage.
The Finns then set the third fastest time on the final Power Stage of the year to claim three bonus points from the event.
Thierry Neuville/Martijn Wydaeghe ended a disappointing weekend, where they retired on Friday while chasing down victory, with a flourish.
The Belgians won both runs of Ena City and Asahi Kougen, and finished second on each Nenoue Kougen test.
Their final result of 13th does not reflect the pace of the Hyundai Shell Mobis World Rally Team crew in the unpredictable conditions.
Maximum points in the Power Stage was a small consolation for the duo.
Overall, the Hyundai Shell Mobis World Rally Team has claimed two victories, 15 podiums and 67 stage wins in the 2023 season and finished second in the manufacturers’ championship.
The team will now focus on coming back stronger in 2024 with a refreshed line-up and clear winning intentions.
Crew Notes: Esapekka Lappi/Janne Ferm (#4 Hyundai i20 N Rally1 Hybrid)
Finns find pace on Sunday and finish third in Power Stage
Crew’s two stage wins in Japan both claimed in Toyota Stadium (SS8/16)
Lappi said: “My pace was getting better and better day by day. This morning I was not really satisfied, I felt I was really driving on the limit of the grip and I couldn’t match the times of Katsuta, especially on the wet tyres. At the tyre fitting, we made a change with the suspension set-up just to try something else, and it worked. In the end, I think we found something at the right time to stop him, which was important for that fight. It is good to finish the final rally without any damage to the car. I think my season has been 50/50; at the beginning I was learning a lot, the middle of the season was really good, but the end was not so strong. I’m looking forward to coming back even better in 2024.”
Crew Notes: Thierry Neuville/Martijn Wydaeghe (#11 Hyundai i20 N Rally1 Hybrid)
Four stage wins by Belgians on final day, including event’s Power Stage
Neuville finishes season third in the drivers’ championship
Neuville said: “I’m quite happy this event is over now. It was still an enjoyable weekend but we could have been in the fight for victory considering the speed we have. I’m really disappointed for that mistake but it is what it is, and I apologised to the team for it. We’re going to another good season next year; we took eight podiums, but we also had a couple of problems that cost us important points for the championship. We were really only targeting victories at the end of the season – sometimes it works, but sometimes it doesn’t.”
Hyundai Motorsport Team Principal Cyril Abiteboul said: “Rally Japan is a good summary of our season; one that has shown a number of positives with our crews and our team willing to do everything to fight for wins and showing strong speed. However, we have also had some lost opportunities, either due to direct mistakes or lack of confidence. This was the case this weekend, despite us showing decent pace in dramatic conditions and on a surface where, at the start of this season, we were not as strong. Thanks to the efforts of our team to develop the car, we have improved this over the course of the year. It is a good foundation to take the opportunity of the break and focus on the targets we have to set ourselves for next year.”
Abiteboul added: “Finally, I would like to take a moment to pay tribute to our team-mate Craig. We have suffered a great loss this season. Craig had a passion and love for our sport that he could express like no other, and he is still greatly missed by everyone. His words should serve as an inspiration to all of us, even on our most difficult days. We hope to carry his spirit, drive and determination with us on the next stage of our journey.”
Final Overall Classification – Rally Japan
1 E. Evans S. Martin Toyota GR Yaris Rally1 Hybrid 3:32:08.8
2 S. Ogier V. Landais Toyota GR Yaris Rally1 Hybrid +1:17.7
3 K. Rovanperä J. Halttunen Toyota GR Yaris Rally1 Hybrid +1:46.5
4 E. Lappi J. Ferm Hyundai i20 N Rally1 Hybrid +2:50.3
5 T. Katsuta A. Johnston Toyota GR Yaris Rally1 Hybrid +3:10.3
6 O. Tänak M. Järveoja Ford Puma Rally1 Hybrid +3:28.3
7 A. Mikkelsen T. Eriksen Škoda Fabia RS +7:33.7
8 N. Gryazin K. Aleksandrov Škoda Fabia RS +8:49.6
9 K. Kajetanowicz M. Szczepaniak Škoda Fabia RS +19:25.9
10 H. Arai H. Tachikui Peugeot 208 Rally4 +22:22.7
2023 FIA World Rally Championship for Manufacturers’ Standings
After round 13
1 Toyota Gazoo Racing World Rally Team 504
2 Hyundai Shell Mobis World Rally Team 399
3 M-Sport Ford World Rally Team 271
2023 FIA World Rally Championship for Drivers’ Standings
After round 13
1 K. Rovanperä 235
2 E. Evans 191
3 T. Neuville 184
4 O. Tänak 162
5 S. Ogier 114
6 E. Lappi 98
7 T. Katsuta 89
8 D. Sordo 63
9 T. Suninen 42
All results remain subject to official FIA confirmation.