Twelve years after it last appeared in the fixture list, FORUM8 Rally Japan (10 - 13 November) forms the finale of the 2022 FIA World Rally Championship - marking the land of the rising sun’s return to the WRC for the first time since 2010.
There will be challenges aplenty as, unlike previous editions which were held on the northern island of Hokkaido, this week’s all-new asphalt event is based in Toyota City, on the country’s main island of Honshu.
Crews face 19 demanding special stages in the mountain regions of Aichi and Gifu, boasting a population of approximately nine million people and about three hours’ drive from capital city Tokyo.
For Toyota Gazoo Racing, it’s a dream come true.
The Japanese marque’s global headquarters sit just a stone’s throw away from the service park. With the drivers’, co-drivers’ and manufacturers’ titles already in the bag, the team is hoping to celebrate its global success with a strong showing in front of local crowds.
Taking the spotlight will no doubt be Takamoto Katsuta, who drives for Toyota’s Next Generation squad. The 29-year-old was born and raised in Nagoya and starts this 13th round in search of his maiden WRC victory.
“Of course I know this will be a big rally,” Katsuta said. “There will be a lot of interest from the people, from the fans and for the team.
“I know it will be quite a different rally with different kinds of roads from what we have seen. But I will do my best and, of course, I’m going to enjoy Japanese stages!”
Joining Katsuta in a trio of identical GR Yaris cars are drivers’ champion Kalle Rovanperä along with Elfyn Evans and Sébastien Ogier, who has new co-driver Vincent Landais alongside.
Ott Tänak marks his final start for Hyundai Motorsport after confirming his departure from the i20 N team at the end of the season.
A solid result would ensure the Estonian driver bows out with second in the championship, although team-mate Thierry Neuville - third in the points - will be doing all he can to try and overturn the 21-point deficit. Part-time pilot Dani Sordo drives the team’s third car on what will be his fifth outing of the season.
M-Sport Ford field a two-strong Puma line-up headed by Irishman Craig Breen. He debuts alongside new co-driver James Fulton, while Gus Greensmith steers a similar car.
It’s also a big week in WRC2, the sport’s premier support category. Emil Lindholm, Kajetan Kajetanowicz and the absent Andreas Mikkelsen each stand a chance of being crowned champion depending on how the action unfolds.
The rally starts on this evening with a super special stage in Kuragaike Park and finishes on Sunday afternoon after 19 tests totalling 283.27km.