Toyota Gazoo Racing World Rally Team scored a dream 1-2-3 finish on home roads at Rally Japan, concluding another wildly successful FIA World Rally Championship season. How did the team achieve this fantastic 2023 WRC result?
2023 WRC result: Rally Japan
Action in this year’s final round began with a pre-event shakedown, during which the four Toyota drivers were all placed within the top five times. But nobody could deny that the most impressive spectacle was reserved for the ceremonial start and opening super special stage, held within the Toyota Stadium on a specially constructed 2.1km side-by-side circuit.
The first full day was also the longest, consisting of two loops of three stages in the Aichi mountains. These demanding roads were made all the more treacherous with heavy rain, which affected visibility and created huge pools of standing water. Familiar with these kind of conditions, Elfyn Evans powered through the first two tests to open up a 26-second lead in his GR Yaris Rally1 Hybrid.
The Welshman maintained that strong pace during the afternoon tests, eventually returning to the service park with a 50.9-second lead over second-placed team-mate Sébastien Ogier. This advantage increased by a further minute following the evening service because the team was unable to fix some barrier damage to Ogier’s car within the regulation 45-minute window. Nevertheless, Ogier was still able to remain 16.7 seconds ahead of Kalle Rovanperä, who had heroically climbed from seventh to third that afternoon.
The second full day took crews south from Toyota City to roads around Okazaki, which itself hosted a new super special stage that was run twice prior to the midday tyre fitting zone. Both passes were won by Evans. The following five stages in the surrounding mountains provided further challenges as rain and snow were added to the mix, but nothing failed to alter the overall standings. Following the weekend’s third and final run of the Toyota Stadium super special, Evans concluded the day 75 seconds ahead of Ogier, who in turn was more than 25 seconds in front of Rovanperä.
With all three primary Toyota drivers having the podium in their sights, the final day became about managing the gap and the changeable, slippery conditions rather than pushing flat-out. Interestingly, Toyota’s WRC Challenge Program driver Takamoto Katsuta was pushing very hard for a second successive Rally Japan podium finish. He was the quickest competitor on days two through four and won more stages than any other driver, eventually finishing fifth overall.
Victory in Japan represented the ninth overall win for Toyota this season and the third for Evans and co-driver Scott Martin. After sealing the manufacturers’ title on round eleven and then the drivers’ and co-drivers’ titles in the penultimate event, Rally Japan provided a perfect season-ending conclusion for Toyota as triple world champions.
2023 WRC result in Round 13: Rally Japan
|1||Toyota Gazoo Racing||Elfyn Evans / Scott Martin|
|2||Toyota Gazoo Racing||Sébastien Ogier/Vincent Landais||+ 1m 17.7s|
|3||Toyota Gazoo Racing||Kalle Rovanperä / Jonne Halttunen||+ 1m 46.5s|
|4||Hyundai Motorsport||Esapekka Lappi / Janne Ferm||+ 2m 50.3s|
|5||Toyota Gazoo Racing||Takamoto Katsuta/Aaron Johnston||+ 3m 10.3s|
2023 WRC championship standings: drivers and co-drivers
|1||Toyota Gazoo Racing||Kalle Rovanperä / Jonne Halttunen||250|
|2||Toyota Gazoo Racing||Elfyn Evans / Scott Martin||216|
|3||Hyundai Motorsport||Thierry Neuville / Martijn Wydaeghe||189|
|4||M-Sport Ford||Ott Tänak / Martin Järveoja||174|
|5||Toyota Gazoo Racing||Sébastien Ogier / Vincent Landais||133|