Ten years after it last appeared in the WRC fixture list, Rally Japan secured a sought-after place in next year’s 14-round schedule after WRC Promoter’s calendar was agreed by the FIA World Motorsport Council.
The confirmation marks mainstream Asia’s return to the WRC for the first time since Japan left the series in 2010, achieving a long-term goal for WRC Promoter, which owns the commercial rights to the championship.
The rally will be held on 19 – 22 November, securing the honour of hosting the final round and meaning the outcome of both the drivers’ and manufacturers’ world titles could be decided in Japan.
Unlike previous editions which were held on the northern island of Hokkaido, the all-new asphalt event will be based in Nagoya, on the country’s main island of Honshu.
This will allow demanding special stages in the mountain regions of Aichi and Gifu, boasting a population of approximately nine million people and about three hours’ drive from capital city Tokyo.
“Today’s confirmation is the culmination of years of hard work by the WRC Japan Round Bid Committee, local promoter San’s Inc. and Japan Automobile Federation,” said WRC Promoter managing director Oliver Ciesla.
“Rally Japan will be a hugely popular addition to the WRC and provide a fitting finale to the 2020 campaign.
“Our strategy is to further globalise the championship by incorporating more events outside Europe and Japan’s resumption after a decade’s absence strengthens our presence in this huge market.
“More than 50,000 fans flocked to last year’s candidate event. With the continued success of Japanese car manufacturer Toyota in the WRC, I have no doubts next year’s attendance will be well in excess of that.”
Japan first appeared in the WRC in 2004. Based in Obihiro, the twisty gravel road encounter was won by Petter Solberg in a Subaru Impreza.
Marcus Grönholm, Sébastien Loeb and Mikko Hirvonen each won over the next three years before the rally moved to Sapporo, Hokkaido’s biggest city, in 2008.
Hirvonen claimed his second straight victory and although the rally was not part of the championship the following season, it returned in 2010 when Sébastien Ogier claimed top honours.
A test event, called Central Rally Aichi / Gifu 2019, will be held in November to trial special stages planned for inclusion next year and to train organisers and marshals.
The two-day non-championship event, on 9 – 10 November, will take place the week before Kennards Hire Rally Australia, allowing team representatives to make inspections en route to the WRC’s season-closing round.