Heikki Kovalainen wraps up 2022 All-Japan Rally title
With 5 wins within the six occasions prior of their Crew Aicello Skoda Fabia, Kovalainen and his co-driver Sae Kitagawa went into final weekend’s Rally Hokkaido nearly assured of the crown of their first 12 months of competing within the JRC’s high JN-1 class for four-wheel drive automobiles.
Regardless of ending solely ninth whereas his nearest title rival Norihiko Katsuta received the rally, Kovalainen was handed the crown by default because it transpired that subsequent month’s closing spherical of the season, Rally Highland Masters, is not going to supply sufficient factors to permit the Finnish driver to be caught.
It marks Kovalainen’s second title success within the JRC following his triumph within the JN-2 class in a two-wheel drive Toyota 86 final 12 months.
Kovalainen endured a troublesome weekend in Hokkaido, solely the second occasion of the season to be held on gravel, as he suffered an off on Saturday’s fifth stage that value him 22 minutes.
“I could not change the punctured tyre very nicely due to some injury to the jack mount, so I needed to improvise and discover one other answer to carry the rear of the automobile up and finally get it modified,” Kovalainen stated.
“However I knew coming into the weekend that we had already received the championship, so I went a bit more durable and it did not work out nicely!”
After the Rally Highland Masters season finale subsequent month, Kovalainen will flip his focus to his deliberate one-off look within the WRC on the championship’s return to Japan in November.
The 2016 SUPER GT champion says he’s wanting ahead to returning to tarmac for each of these occasions, having confirmed to be the category of the sector within the JRC on sealed-surface roads this 12 months.
“This weekend in Hokkaido has proven I’ve obtained lots to be taught on gravel,” he admitted. “I really feel I am not driving nicely on these high-speed, slippery roads, in order that’s an space that I must follow lots in future if I wish to make progress.
“I am extra assured on tarmac, so I am wanting ahead to the ultimate spherical of the JRC and the WRC even when this one did not work out. That stated, I wish to improve my velocity and these items occur within the course of! It is part of the sport in rallying.”
Kovalainen has but to determine on his plans for 2023 however beforehand indicated to Motorsport.com he’ll prioritise his rallying exploits over any potential return to circuit racing, following his retirement from SUPER GT final 12 months.