› In extreme weather conditions, WRC2 champions Andreas Mikkelsen and co-driver Torstein Eriksen1 (Škoda Fabia RS Rally2) celebrate fourth category victory of the season.
› Finishing third in WRC2 on the tarmac stages in the Nagoya area, Kajetan Kajetanowicz (Škoda Fabia RS Rally2) becomes inaugural champion of the WRC2 Challenger classification1.
› Škoda crews take top five WRC2 positions at the FIA World Rally Championship’s final round.
Nagoya (JPN), 19 November – Already crowned WRC2 champions Andreas Mikkelsen/Torstein Eriksen1 (Škoda Fabia RS Rally2) finish off the season by winning the category at Rally Japan. Second position in WRC2 Challenger classification is enough for Kajetan Kajetanowicz (Škoda Fabia RS Rally2) to win this title. Also driving a Škoda, former F1 racer Heikki Kovalainen again made a guest appearance in WRC2.
Torrential rain, some sunshine and even a little snow – Rally Japan had it all. The 13th and final round of the 2023 FIA World Rally Championship (WRC) threw the most adverse weather conditions at the competitors. In the WRC2 field, Andreas Mikkelsen and co-driver Torstein Eriksen mastered the challenges best. The Škoda Fabia RS Rally2 crew won WRC2 with a margin of more than one minute, on the way posting fastest WRC2 time on 14 of the 21 stages actually run. After the wet first leg, the Norwegians driving for team Toksport WRT for some stages even ranked as high as fourth overall. “It's been a really challenging weekend. I think our experience was key,” said Andreas Mikkelsen. He and Eriksen had sealed the WRC2 Drivers’ and WRC2 Co-Drivers’ titles already three weeks ago at the Central European Rally.
With Mikkelsen/Eriksen seemingly easy in control in WRC2, the focus turned on the duel for the WRC2 Challenger title. Kajetan Kajetanowicz and Nikolay Gryazin both had the chance to overtake interim leader Sami Pajari. The Finn had already scored points in seven past events – the maximum allowed by the regulations – and didn’t travel to Japan.
Gryazin and co-driver Konstantin Aleksandrov, who shared a Toksport run Škoda Fabia RS Rally2, eventually were fastest of the sub-category finishing second in WRC2. But third place was enough for Kajetan Kajetanowicz, as usual navigated by Maciej Szczepaniak aboard ORLEN Rally Team’s Škoda Fabia RS Rally2, to become the inaugural WRC2 Challenger champion. The support series was introduced at the beginning of 2023 for WRC2-registered drivers who have not previously won a title with Rally2 machinery at WRC level. “We can say, we are champions – it’s an amazing feeling,” commented Kajetanowicz, a three times FIA European Rally Champion and four times title winner in Poland.
With their Rally Japan results, Gryazin and Kajetanowicz climbed to fourth and fifth position respectively in the final WRC2 Drivers’ standings. Škoda drivers took four of the top 5 overall positions in the world championship’s main feeder category. The WRC Masters Cup went to Alexander Villanueva (Škoda Fabia RS Rally2) from Spain, while Škoda Motorsport customer Toksport WRT 3 became the 2023 WRC2 Teams’ champion1.
Finishing fourth and fifth respectively in WRC2 at Rally Japan, locals Osamu Fukunaga/Misako Saida (Three Five Motorsport) and Daniel Chwist/Kamil Heller from Poland (Eurosol Racing Team Hungary) made sure, that Škoda crews took the top 5 positions of the category at the season finale.
Like last year, former Formula One racer Heikki Kovalainen again made a guest appearance in WRC2. The Finn and local co-driver Sae Kitagawa recently won their second Japanese Rally Championship for Škoda Motorsport customer team Aicello. Until their retirement during the second leg of Rally Japan, they ran as high as third in WRC2.
The WRC2 teams now head into a short winter break. The 2024 season of the FIA World Rally Championship starts on 25 January with Rallye Monte-Carlo.
1subject to confirmation of results by the FIA
Number of the rally: 22.8
In the 22.9 kilometres long stage 18 “Ena City”, Andreas Mikkelsen/Torstein (Škoda Fabia RS Rally2) beat the closest WRC2 competitor by 22.8 seconds. In other words: The Norwegians were nearly exactly one second per kilometre faster than everybody else.
Rally Japan, 16-19 November 2023, Result WRC2
1 Andreas Mikkelsen/Torstein Eriksen (NOR/NOR), Škoda Fabia RS Rally2, 3:39:42.5 hours
2 Nikolay Gryazin/Konstantin Aleksandrov (ANA/ANA), Škoda Fabia RS Rally2, +1:15.9 minutes
3 Kajetan Kajetanowicz/Maciej Szczepaniak (POL/POL), Škoda Fabia RS Rally2, +11:52.2 minutes
4 Osamu Fukunaga/Misako Saida (JPN/JPN), Škoda Fabia Rally2 evo, +17:05.3 minutes
5 Daniel Chwist/Kamil Heller (POL/POL), Škoda Fabia Rally2 evo, +20:19.3 minutes
Final Standings WRC2/Drivers2
1 Andreas Mikkelsen (NOR), Škoda, 134 points
2 Gus Greensmith (GBR), Škoda, 111 points
3 Yohan Rossel (FRA), Citroën, 104 points
4 Nikolay Gryazin (ANA), Škoda, 96 points
5 Kajetan Kajetanowicz (POL), 95 points
Final Standings WRC2 Challenger2
1 Kajetan Kajetanowicz (POL), Škoda, 126 points
2 Nikolay Gryazin (ANA), Škoda, 121 points
3 Sami Pajari (FIN), Škoda, 118 points
2 subject to confirmation of the results by the FIA