JAPAN - The M-Sport Ford World Rally Team heads to the far-east for Rally Japan, the highly anticipated grand finale of the 2022 FIA World Rally Championship.
The event has been years in the making, with the entire service park eagerly enthusiastic about WRC making its return to Japan. Rally Japan has previously been a part of WRC’s world tour, however last time out in 2010 the rally was held on gravel roads. This time, the WRC will see what Japan’s tantalising Tarmac has to offer, with all crews competing on brand-new stages that have never-before featured in the WRC.
2022 witnessed the debut of WRC’s new hybrid era, with M-Sport introducing the Puma Hybrid Rally1 with a stunning livery in January, shortly before kicking off the season with a fairy-tale victory on Rally Monte Carlo with Sebastien Loeb. In its debut season M-Sport has delivered a top tier rally car with competitive pace at its core, delivering a WRC victory, three WRC podiums, 27 WRC stage wins, and 10 WRC power stage top-five finishes. Rounding out M-Sport’s 2022 championship campaign in Japan will be Craig Breen and Gus Greensmith, who will both be vying to add to the Puma’s tally of statistics while continuing M-Sport’s unbeaten streak of consecutive manufacturers’ points finishes which currently stands at 280 WRC events.
For Breen, Japan sees him partner up with James Fulton in competitive action for the first time. Fulton is replacing Breen’s outgoing co-driver Paul Nagle, who retired on Rally Spain. Fulton is no stranger to the Puma Rally1 or Breen, having sat in the co driver’s seat on numerous test days and shadowed Nagle on WRC events to hit the ground running in Japan. To ensure Fulton is fully up to speed and supported, Nagle will also be in Japan to be on hand for both Breen and Fulton to ensure a smooth transition between the partnerships.
The challenge that awaits Breen and Greensmith in Japan will be demanding, with only the organiser’s onboard videos to go off for a reference point. From the limited knowledge available, the word is that Japan’s stages will be tough, challenging, and technical. If Tour de Corse is named the rally of 10,000 corners, some claim that this edition of Rally Japan should be referred to as the rally of 100,000 corners such is its terrifically technical nature.
Rich Millener, M-Sport Ford World Rally Team Principal, said: "It is great that we are finally getting to compete in Japan. This rally has been in the works for a while now and while we might be arriving two years late, our appetite for this event has only grown. I think it’s very important that the sport is heading to Japan, especially for our competitor Toyota which has been incredible in recent years, the team deserves to be able to have a fantastic home event.
“I would also like to extend a huge thank you to every single member of the M-Sport team. Through one way or another, this year has been incredibly tough for a lot of our team members. They have stuck with it, didn’t give up and always delivered for which we are very grateful.
“I am feeling optimistic about this rally, the aim is to do our absolute best to finish the season on a high, to give us some momentum into the off season as we prepare for the 2023 season.”
Craig Breen, said: “It is the last rally of the year and a new rally for everyone. From what we can see so far, the roads look challenging; incredibly twisty and technical. It looks like it will be up there as one of the most difficult rallies that we’ve seen on Tarmac so far. Still, it should be a nice challenge, Spain got better and better as the weekend went on, I felt like we made some good progress and changes with the car. Hopefully we can hit the ground running here in Japan and try to bring home a good result to end the season.”
Gus Greensmith, said: “Japan as a country itself is a place I’ve always dreamed about visiting, the fact I am able to go and compete on there and then enjoy the country after is a double bonus. We feel we will have a strong package coming into this weekend. It’s going to be a good weekend; we want to round out the season on a high.”