Toyota dominate FIA World Rally Championship finale with Elfyn  Evans securing victory


MOTORSPORTS Toyota dominate FIA World Rally Championship finale with Elfyn Evans securing victory

Festus Chuma 13:00 - 19.11.2023

In a thrilling conclusion to the 2023 FIA World Rally Championship at Rally Japan, an unexpected victor emerges, showcasing dominance and determination.

Welsh driver Elfyn Evans has clinched his eighth career win at the final round of the 2023 FIA World Rally Championship.

Evans finished a remarkable 1 minute and 17.7 seconds ahead of his Toyota Gazoo Racing team-mate Sébastien Ogier, cementing his position as the runner-up driver in this year's championship, a feat he has achieved for the third time in his career.

Evans's path to victory was paved early in the asphalt fixture, where he surged to a near-two-minute lead during Friday's rain-soaked opening leg. With that significant advantage under his belt, he masterfully controlled the rally, adjusting his risk level to adapt to the ever-changing conditions.

Kalle Rovanperä's capture of the final podium spot marked a perfect season for Toyota, securing titles for Rovanperä and his co-driver Jonne Halttunen, in addition to the team's third consecutive manufacturers' championship victory.

"It was not easy with the conditions we had this week, even though we had a massive gap already after Friday night. A massive thanks to the team; the car's been great, and a 1-2-3 for Toyota is a fantastic result," said Evans.

Ogier, who had undertaken a part-time program in 2023, faced adversity when he damaged his GR Yaris car's chassis after sliding into a barrier on Saturday.

The necessary repairs caused him to exceed his allocated service time, resulting in a one-minute time penalty that ultimately prevented him from challenging Evans's lead. He finished 28.8 seconds ahead of Rovanperä, securing the second-place position.

Esapekka Lappi, behind the wheel of a Hyundai i20 Rally1, held off Toyota's rising star Takamoto Katsuta to claim fourth place, with a 20.0-second gap separating the two.

Local hero Katsuta showcased his prowess by winning nine of the rally's 21 stages, but an incident on Friday morning left him just over three minutes behind the victorious Evans.

Ott Tänak struggled to find the right balance with his M-Sport Ford Puma, settling for sixth place in his final outing for the British team. Tänak is set to return to Hyundai Motorsport's lineup for the upcoming season.

WRC2 champion Andreas Mikkelsen not only added another class victory to his impressive tally but also secured a commendable seventh-place finish overall in a Škoda Fabia RS Rally2.

Following closely behind were fellow Rally2 competitors Nikolay Gryazin and Kajetan Kajetanowicz.

Kajetanowicz's second-place finish in the WRC2 Challenger category was enough to secure the title, making him the first driver to claim the championship since its inception at the beginning of the year.

As the 2023 FIA World Rally Championship season concludes in style, fans can eagerly anticipate the return of thrilling rally action in 2024.

The season will kick off with the Rallye Monte-Carlo from January 25th to 28th, promising another year of high-speed excitement and fierce competition on the world's most challenging stages. 

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