Hyundai Motorsport WRC Preview: Round 13 - Rally Japan

13 November, 2023

  • Hyundai Motorsport travels to Rally Japan, the 13th and final round of the 2023 FIA World Rally Championship (WRC), targeting a positive finish to the season
  • The rally spans two mountainous regions, Aichi and Gifu, with picturesque vistas providing a backdrop to over 300km of winding tarmac stages
  • Thierry Neuville/Martijn Wydaeghe, Esapekka Lappi/Janne Ferm and Dani Sordo/Cándido Carrera will be driving the Hyundai i20 N Rally1 Hybrid for the closing event of the year

Hyundai Motorsport is ready to take on Rally Japan this week, the 13th and final round of the 2023 FIA World Rally Championship (WRC) season. The series’ sole Asian event will cover a total competitive distance of 304.12km, with the itinerary split across four days (November 16-19).
Hyundai Shell Mobis World Rally Team heads to Rally Japan in strong tarmac form following a victory at the previous round: Central European Rally. Japan proved to be a successful spot for the team last year; the Korean manufacturer dominated the 2022 edition of the event with a 1-2 finish. Replicating this result will be the ultimate goal for each Hyundai i20 N Rally1 Hybrid crew: Thierry Neuville/Martijn Wydaeghe, Esapekka Lappi/Janne Ferm and Dani Sordo/Cándido Carrera.
2023 will mark only the second running of the event since 2010, making it a fairly new challenge for the competing teams and crews. The rally’s base lies in Nagoya, a city located in the south of Japan’s main island. The inconsistent tarmac surface found on the event’s stages are often slippery, worsened by fallen leaves throughout the forested sections. This combination can cause unpredictable terrain across a variety of stages. Narrow tunnels, most notably found on SS2/5 Isegami’s Tunnel, are a unique feature of Rally Japan that require precision as well as pace from drivers.
The event begins with the 2.10km super special stage inside the Toyota Stadium. The brand-new opener will bare resemblance to the first stage of Acropolis Rally – a fan favourite guaranteed to draw masses of Japanese WRC fans. To give more spectators a chance to see the cars in action, the stage will also be run on both Friday and Saturday evening. The rally has been extended by three stages, increasing from 19 in 2022 to 22 this year. This has also increased the total distance by 30km. With the elongated event, the Hyundai Motorsport crews cannot afford any lapses in concentration; maintaining full focus from start to finish will be vital in producing a positive result.
Hyundai Motorsport Team Principal Cyril Abiteboul said: “The last rally of the year has arrived very quickly and it is the final chance we have to push ourselves and the Hyundai i20 N Rally1 Hybrid. The team’s 1-2 in Japan twelve months ago proves that the car is capable of victory at this event. Plus our victory at Central European Rally and podiums at Monte Carlo and Croatia show that we have the performance we need to be successful on tarmac. Our mission is to combine this momentum with Thierry and Dani’s experience of the roads and end the season with the strongest result possible. A victory would be the ideal finish to 2023.”

i20 N Rally2 low angle shot speeding on circuit

Crew Notes: Thierry Neuville/Martijn Wydaeghe (#11 Hyundai i20 N Rally1 Hybrid)

  • Belgians looking to continue win streak following victory at Central European Rally
  • Finished on the top step at Rally Japan in 2022

Neuville said: “We are going to Japan with the tarmac mileage from Central European Rally and a win from last year. It’s an exciting event in a country I really enjoy, particularly the culture and atmosphere. The fans are really excited to see the WRC and I think we are going to see even more enthusiastic fans this year supporting us, I didn’t even know I had so many fans in Japan until I arrived there last year – it was so beautiful to see. In order to be successful, we need to ensure we avoid understeer and make the right calls on tyres; this time of year means that conditions can be tricky. Hopefully we can continue our success and have another great experience out there.”
Crew Notes: Esapekka Lappi/Janne Ferm (#4 Hyundai i20 N Rally1 Hybrid)

  • First time competing in Japan for Finnish crew
  • Aiming for a clean finish across all 22 stages

Lappi said: “It’s my first time in Japan, so my goal is to finish well. I want to end the season as high as we can, and I want to be on the podium again. There are many things we must do to achieve that result, but tyre choice will be crucial.  An early exit last time out on the European tarmac means that we have everything to prove here as it’s both the second consecutive tarmac event and the last rally of the season. I have heard that the atmosphere is great and there are some very passionate Japanese rally fans, so I am excited to put on a good show for them to close the season.”
Crew Notes: Dani Sordo/Cándido Carrera (#6 Hyundai i20 N Rally1 Hybrid)

  • Spanish crew return to the line-up for the first time since Acropolis Rally
  • Duo looking for redemption after fire ended their 2022 Rally Japan effort early

Sordo said: “Rally Japan is difficult as the stages are often narrow and twisty but is a nice event. Although we didn’t do too many kilometres there last year due to the fire, it is a rally I enjoy. The atmosphere in Japan is amazing; the people really like and respect rally. There are always lots of passionate fans, particularly on the road sections as many of the stages are up in the mountains where it is difficult to go and see the cars. For us, the keys to success are to have good pace notes and a strong setup. Making the car easy to drive and nice in the corners is very important. As for our goal, I would like to win for sure.”
Weekend at a Glance

  • Thursday morning sees shakedown, followed by SSS1 Toyota Stadium (2.10km) in the evening
  • Friday’s seven stages begin shortly after sunrise, with SS2 Isegami’s Tunnel (23.67km) commencing at 7:04am
  • Saturday presents eight further tests that cover a total distance of 84.68km, including the third and final pass of the Toyota Stadium super special stage
  • The final day poses six final stages, ending with the SS22 Asahi Kougen Power Stage (7.52km) at 14:15