Rally Japan : Mitsubishi / PCWRC - Preview
Thirty-six Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution drivers prepare to head to the home of Mitsubishi next week for Rally Japan, the seventh round of the FIA Production Car World Rally Championship, where 59 drivers will be vying for Group N
honors among a vast entry field of 90 competitors in total.
Heading Mitsubishi's Japanese assault is the home-grown talent of Fumio Nutahara who is back in the driving seat after opting to use the last two rallies as his ‘bye' rounds for the FIA Production Car WRC. The two-time Japanese champion will be gunning for victory on home turf and is likely to be one of the firm favorites among the thousands of fans who come out to support their local heroes.
Eager to compete again, Nutahara said: “I competed here last year and gained a lot of experience; this year I want to show rally fans at home just how far we have come. Unfortunately we had some problems on last year's event but this year I am completely ready to take it on. The rally will be a challenge, not least the two 50 kilometer stages in leg one. There will be a lot of stop-and-go type corners so I will have to make sure the tires and brakes are all working well. We took a lot of data from Rally Hokkaido back in July which we have incorporated into the car for this rally so I'm feeling very confident.
“Of course I am aiming to win the PWRC in Japan,” he continued, “but the level of competition in the PWRC is very high this year. Mitsubishi wants Katsu [Taguchi] and I to give it our best, but I think I can take victory from him! It would be great if the Mitsubishi works team wins and we could make it a double victory!”
While there are a number of competitive Lancer Evolution runners, 1999 Asia- Pacific Rally Champion Katsuhiko Taguchi will certainly put up a fight. Currently lying third in the FIA Asia-Pacific Rally Championship standings, the Japanese driver is not registered to score FIA PWRC points but as winner of the recent Rally Hokkaido, is as hungry for home victory in Group N as Nutahara.
“Although I have not achieved the results I had hoped for on International rallies here in Japan, my overall win in Hokkaido makes me feel I am ready to challenge the best,” said Taguchi. “We are being supported by the ‘Mitsubishi Motors Dealer Mechanics Team' which comprises five mechanics who were selected from Mitsubishi dealers throughout Japan and they will be our service crew. Their skill and enthusiasm is top notch! We have entered numerous events since last year so I feel I am in peak condition for Rally Japan this year. I can't wait!”
Federico Villagra, Riccardo Errani and Natalie Barratt will also be aiming for FIA PWRC points but with 31 of the 36 Group N runners being Japanese, the fight for home victory will be fierce.
Leg one of Rally Japan takes crews north-east of the Obihiro Rally HQ base for the longest day of the event covering 163.26 kilometers of competition and including a double run of the challenging 50 kilometer Kunneywa-Niueo forestry stage and a loop of the Satsunai super special. The second day is a lot shorter at 100.98 competitive kilometers but covers eleven stages around the town of Ashoro before crews return to the Obihiro super special to close the day. The third and final leg takes crews north-west of the rally base to the same high-speed stages near the town of Shintoku, used in 2004.
Press release Mitsubishi Motors