Ott Tänak sixth in Rally Japan opening test
Driving in his last World Rally Championship race for Hyundai and the final race of the 2022 season, Ott Tänak finished sixth in the initial speed stage at Rally Japan.
Tänak, and co-driver Martin Järveoja, were 1.1 seconds behind fastest driver Thierry Neuville (Belgium), their teammate, who put in a time of 2:04.6 in the Hyundai i20, over the 2.8km section.
Veteran driver and eight-time world champion Sebastien Ogier was next in the Toyota Yaris, followed by a brace of M-Sport Ford drivers, Irishman Craig Breen and Englishman Gus Greensmith, and 2022 WRC champion Kalle Rovanperä (Finland, Toyota).
Tänak was next with a time of 2.05.7, followed by Welshman and 2021 season runner-up Elfyn Evans (Toyota), Hyundai man Dani Sordo (Spain) and another Toyota driver, Takamoto Katsuta, racing before a home crowd.
The first stage proper starts just before 10.40 a.m. Estonian time Thursday – early evening in Nagoya, where the rally takes place – and continues Friday through to Sunday lunchtime – Sunday evening in Estonia.
Since the 2022 WRC title was decided two races ago in New Zealand, there is nothing left to compete for a the top level.
Tänak, the 2019 world champion, is second in the drivers' table going into race weekend, though his teammate Neuville is in with a mathematical chance of overtaking him at the last.
The Estonian has confirmed he is neither renewing his contract with Hyundai nor being hired by the only other two teams to compete at the top level – Toyota, with whom he won his world title, or M-Sport Ford, whom he has also driven for in past seasons.
This means 2022 is Tänak's last full WRC season, for the meantime at least.
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Editor: Andrew Whyte