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World Rally Championship Comes to an End in Japan with an All-New Race

The Japan rally, the last round of the world championship, even if it has nothing to add for the WRC1 drivers’ and constructors’ titles, promises to be full of unknowns, due to the unusual format, and full of suspense for the WRC2 title still to be awarded. In fact, the race, which returns to the calendar after 12 years, looks totally transformed compared to previous editions. Drivers and cars will no longer be put to the test on the gravel tracks of the island of Hokkaido, but on the asphalt of the mountain roads of the Gifu and Aichi prefectures around the city of Toyota, home of the car manufacturer of the same name, the newly crowned world rally champion.

As so often this season, the toughest day promises to be Friday. The first two stages of the rally are made up of three long stages to be run twice, making a total of six special stages and 132.97 kilometres in all, winding their way across the slippery, cold asphalts of the Aichi mountains. Complicating the challenge is the race’s start time (7.02am), which suggests very wet and treacherous conditions in the morning, while in the afternoon the roads are likely to be very dirty. Similar types of surfaces are expected on Saturday’s seven special stages, including the two demanding passes of Nukata Forest (SS8 and SS11) and Mikawa Lake (SS 9 and SS 12), each of 20.56 and 14.74 kilometres respectively. Closing the day are two show stages, with the double pass (SS 13 and 14) in the city of Okazaki, on an urban track of just 1.4 kilometres. The scene of Sunday’s five stages are the streets of the Gifu prefecture, north of Toyota. The start time postponed by an hour compared to the previous days (8.08am) bodes well for the race with less residual night humidity and more light, although the weather, which promises low temperatures especially in the morning, could hold surprises throughout the weekend, disrupting plans.

The 19 special stages of the rally total 283.87 kilometres over 965.25 kilometres.

For this race in WRC1:
P Zero RA WRC HA, a hard compound, suitable for the exclusively dry and more abrasive surfaces and the longer stages, is the prime;
P Zero RA WRC SA, a soft compound for the slippery dry asphalts, is the option;
Cinturato RWB, is the choice in case of rain or damp surfaces.

Terenzio Testoni, rally activity manager: “Reconnaissance and notes are always fundamental in a rally, but in this case, they are even more so, as the world championship drivers have no experience of these roads, which are going to be particularly treacherous due to the type of track, winding and often sloping, and the slipperiness. Drivers will also have to pay particular attention to the dirt that can accumulate on the roads. Even though the WRC1 championship is over, the WRC2 title is still to be awarded, which makes for an even more interesting race that I expect to be hard-fought and spectacular in all categories, to round off a season in which I don’t remember a single predictable weekend, with often tight duels and driving conditions that are always challenging for cars, tyres and drivers.”

Pirelli brings 710 tyres for the Rally1 cars to Japan. The allocations for the top category are:

  • 28 tyres for the P Zero RA WRC HA
  • 22 for the P Zero RA WRC SA
  • 12 for the Cinturato RWB

Each Rally1 car can mount a total of up to 28 tyres during the entire race, including four for the shakedown.

Pirelli also supplies 780 tyres to the WRC2 cars, which can use up to a maximum of 26 tyres per car, including the shakedown. The allocations for each crew are:

  • 26 P Zero RA5A, which successfully made its debut in the Rally Catalunya
  • 20 P Zero RA7+B, which makes its debut at the Rally Japan and guarantees better performance on low grip surfaces
  • 12 Cinturato RWB