The title fight in the 2023 WRC season has already been decided in Toyota’s favor – at the season finale in Japan, the drivers can go on the attack once again
The 2023 World Rally Championship (WRC) comes to an end with the season finale in Japan. The decisions in the title fights have already been made, as Toyota has won the drivers’ championship early with Kalle Rovanperä. In the team standings, the Japanese team is unassailably ahead of Hyundai and M-Sport-Ford, which is why the brand has allowed its drivers to attack once again at the home rally to thrill the home fans.
Toyota dominated the 2023 WRC season: The drivers took eight victories in twelve rounds, and the battle for the top spot was a clear-cut affair. So it’s no wonder that Toyota won the double for the third time in a row. Despite the successes, there is still a task ahead, as the only home rally for the Japanese has so far been won by Hyundai and clearly dominated with a double victory.
The last Japanese home win to date was achieved by Subaru in 2004 with Petter Solberg, while Hyundai won in 2022. According to Toyota team boss Jari-Matti Latvala, the racing team is “fully motivated” to finally celebrate another home win. “We have won all the titles again, so the only goal we still have is to win the Rally Japan,” he says.
In the 2022 season, Takamoto Katsuta at least made it onto the podium, but he was denied victory. “We bring all four drivers there and they don’t have to worry about the championship, so they have the freedom to attack fully, because the goal of winning the rally is the priority. It’s a challenge because it’s the second consecutive tarmac rally and the roads are very different to those in Central Europe.”
None of the manufacturers had time to test the car before the season finale, so the vehicles must have a good basic set-up as soon as they are unloaded. After that, the necessary changes must always fit, otherwise a driver will have massive problems in Japan. In addition to champion Rovanperä, Elfyn Evans, Sebastien Ogier and Katsuta will also be competing for the Japanese team. Record-breaking driver Ogier has clinched three victories in his part-time season.
The Frenchman feels “responsible” for Toyota winning at its home event. “I’m looking forward to the Rally Japan,” he says. “We have already achieved our main goals, but as a Toyota driver, it is my responsibility to also win at home in Japan.” In the 2022 season, Ogier only finished a disappointing fourth place. “That would be a very special and important result.”
“I hope we are better than last year,” continued the eight-time WRC champion. “Hopefully the conditions will be such that we have a bit more fun. Last year we saw that there were hardly any opportunities to take shortcuts. The conditions are more consistent for everyone, regardless of starting position. I hope we will see a nice battle that will end our season with a good result. “