Rally Japan: Day 3 TOYOTA GAZOO Racing remains in control on home roads
TOYOTA GAZOO Racing World Rally Team continues to hold the top three positions at Rally Japan with one day remaining of its home event, with Elfyn Evans still leading his team-mates Sébastien Ogier and Kalle Rovanperä.
The second full day of stages took crews south from the Toyota City service park to roads around Okazaki – which itself hosted a new super special stage which was run twice prior to a mid-day tyre fitting zone. There were also a total of five stages in the surrounding mountains, which still provided plenty of challenges for the drivers even if weather conditions were generally not as extreme as the heavy rain experienced on Friday.
After an excellent job in Friday’s demanding conditions, Evans began the morning with a strong lead which allowed him to carefully manage the day’s challenges, while also managing to win both passes of the Okazaki City super special. The second stage of the afternoon provided him with a particularly tough challenge as rain and snow began to fall, but he made it through safely with much of his advantage intact.
Following the weekend’s third and final run of the Toyota Stadium super special that rounded out the day, Evans has a lead of 1m15s ahead of Ogier, who is 25.6s in front of Rovanperä.
Takamoto Katsuta again starred with his speed on his home roads, winning another four stages during the day in his TGR WRC Challenge Program-supported entry. He also climbed up from ninth to sixth overall, and closed to within 14.9s of fifth-placed Ott Tänak (M-Sport Ford), and 40.9s away from the fourth position held by Esapekka Lappi (Hyundai).
Jari-Matti Latvala (Team Principal)
“It has been another good day for us. The conditions were still difficult even if it was not as challenging as yesterday. For us it was maybe a bit easier because the time gaps after yesterday were fairly big, and I think our drivers know that it would be great to finish the season on a high as a team. They could have taken the risk to attack but in these tricky conditions that could have ended badly. I think Elfyn, Seb and Kalle all drove very clever to get through the day, and I’m sure they will take a similar approach tomorrow. Taka meanwhile is putting in an amazing performance which is showing the potential he has, and I’m sure he will be hungry to keep gaining positions tomorrow.”
Kalle Rovanperä (Driver car 69)
“It was still tricky today. This morning we were expecting it to be drier with more grip, but it was still quite greasy and damp after the rain. We didn’t have the best setup for that but we got through it fine. The weather has actually been quite annoying, because just when you think you will have a dry loop of stages and you can enjoy it a bit more, it starts to snow! The last few kilometres in that middle stage of the afternoon were really tricky when we lost the temperature from the tyres. The plan is just to try and bring it home like this for the team. The weather doesn’t seem to be letting off for tomorrow, so we’ll just try to stay on the road and focus on reaching the finish.”
Elfyn Evans (Driver car 33)
“It’s been quite a mixed day again in terms of the conditions. It was much drier than yesterday but still not completely dry and certainly not easy. We’ve just been trying to manage the risk as best as we can, which is not easily done on these stages as the margins are so fine that it only takes a tiny little slip to pick up an issue. We’re trying to keep focused and manage the gap that we have. When it started sleeting in the second one this afternoon I couldn’t quite believe it, but thankfully we got through it without issue. There’s a big day ahead tomorrow: it still doesn’t look so straightforward, and we know how demanding those stages are, so it’s far from done.”
Sébastien Ogier (Driver car 17)
“It’s been a positive day for us. We still faced some crazy conditions out there. This morning there was no rain but in the forest it was extremely slippery. Then this afternoon we expected to maybe have a few rain drops, but then I started to see little snowflakes falling. It was for sure costing us more time compared to those ahead of us on the road. Luckily it didn’t affect our position but it was a moment where you needed to keep your calm. We are still on for the team’s target with a 1-2-3 and Taka is flying back up the order as well. There are a lot of kilometres left to cover to secure these positions but at the moment it’s looking good.”
End of day three (Saturday):
1 Elfyn Evans/Scott Martin (Toyota GR YARIS Rally1 HYBRID) 2h28m20.8s
2 Sébastien Ogier/Vincent Landais (Toyota GR YARIS Rally1 HYBRID) +1m15.0s
3 Kalle Rovanperä/Jonne Halttunen (Toyota GR YARIS Rally1 HYBRID) +1m40.6s
4 Esapekka Lappi/Janne Ferm (Hyundai i20 N Rally1 HYBRID) +3m09.3s
5 Ott Tänak/Martin Järveoja (Ford Puma Rally1 HYBRID) +3m35.3s
6 Takamoto Katsuta/Aaron Johnston (Toyota GR YARIS Rally1 HYBRID) +3m50.2s
7 Andreas Mikkelsen/Torstein Eriksen (Škoda Fabia RS Rally2) +5m11.3s
8 Grégoire Munster/Louis Louka (Ford Fiesta Rally2) +5m19.6s
9 Nikolay Gryazin/Konstantin Aleksandrov (Škoda Fabia RS Rally2) +5m54.6s
10 Kajetan Kajetanowicz/Maciej Szczepaniak (Škoda Fabia RS Rally2) +12m51.6s
(Results as of 20:10 on Saturday, for the latest results please visit www.wrc.com)
Six stages totalling 84.08 competitive kilometres will conclude the rally on Sunday. The opening pass of three stages takes the rally north-east to Nakatsugawa, where a tyre fitting zone will precede the repeat pass. Asahi Kougen runs as the first and last stages of the day, with bonus points on offer in the rally-ending Power Stage.
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