Hyundai triumphs in Japan in the last race of the first plug-in World Rally Championship

Cars News

Toyota Gazoo Racing dominated the first plug-in season of the World Rally Championship, the WRC. What was supposed to be a domestic catwalk, i.e. the Rally of Japan which took place between Thursday and Sunday in the prefecture of Aichi in the city that took the name of the first car manufacturer in the world, was more of an ordeal. Nonetheless once again all four premier class GR Yaris finished in the back.

Kalle Rovanperä, the youngest ever world champion rallying had secured the title just before his 22nd birthday in New Zealand, but in Japan he had to settle for 12th place after winning 6 out of 13 races. Toyota it then secured the team laurel in the next round, in Spain, also thanks to the affirmation of Sébastien Ogier, the eight-time world champion, “only” fourth in Japan.

The Japanese race was a triumph for Hyundai which ended the troubled season with a one-two, the second in the championship and always with Thierry Neuville ahead of Ott Tänak. In the overall standings the Estonian finished second 50 points behind the Finn, who like the Belgian (third 12 lengths from his teammate) and like Craig Breen (seventh with the Ford Puma of the British M-Sport) has never been forced to retire.

The “revelation” of the very tough Japanese race (three stages canceled out of 19 and three suspended and the i20 N driven by Dani Sordo completely destroyed by flames with the Spanish crew, unharmed, forced to watch the blaze without being able to intervene) was that of the Italian Mauro Miele. Thanks to the rain, the Lombard driver who will celebrate his 67th birthday next January managed to place second in the Power Stage, the final timed event which assigns world championship points to the top 5 classified. “You have no idea how happy I am.

For me it’s a great result: it happened to me once, forty years ago, in motorcross, and it happened again today at the wheel of a rally car”. For the record, a conventional Skoda Fabia evo entered in Wrc2 with Luca Beltrame as navigator who appears in 14th place in the order of arrival of the Rally of Japan. And, again for the record, Miele had also won the Master Cup of the Rallye Monte Carlo which had inaugurated the world championship.

The hybridization of the premier class cars – the Toyota GR Yaris, the Ford Puma and the Hyundai i20 N – combined with the use of sustainable fuels arrived at the 50th edition of the world championship. Failure to use electricity also triggered some penalties. The title case was closed by Rovanperä already in the middle of the season, when he had an abysmal lead over his rivals after winning 5 out of 8 rallies by scoring 197 points out of a possible 240. The rising star of the specialty failed to overshadow the “setting” stars, namely the French Sébastien, Loeb (9 championships won) and Ogier (8) who challenged each other in Montecarlo, Portugal and Kenya. Ogier confirmed a possible “half service” engagement with Toyota again next year. Not even the 48-year-old Loeb seems to have had enough of racing yet and could continue to compete despite commitments in the Dakar and in rally raids.

With the exception of the Sardinian test (at the beginning of June also in 2023), Italy continues to be excluded from the world championship competition. There are no brands and there are no drivers, despite the ten points marked by the Italian flag in the overall standings: in addition to Miele’s 4, there are Lorenzo Bertelli’s 6, seventh in New Zealand with the Ford Puma in his only appearance of this year (the one in Sweden was skipped due to the professional commitments in the field of fashion of the scion of the Prada house). The next calendar has not yet been made official by the FIA, but according to rumors it would include 14 races, one more than the 13 this year and the maximum allowed. The novelties would be the inclusion of Saudi Arabia as the last appointment, in December, and the return of Mexico (March) and Chile (September).

Rate article
( No ratings yet )
Cars Moto News
Add a comment