Kovalainen eyes Japan WRC outing after SUPER GT exit

Heikki Kovalainen says he is an eyeing an appearance in Japan's round of the World Rally Championship this year, as he looks to step up his rallying commitments after exiting SUPER GT.

Listen to this article

Ex-Formula 1 racer Kovalainen has been combining his activities in SUPER GT with the SARD Toyota team with rally outings in Japan for some years now, and was even crowned champion in the national championship's JN-2 class last year at the wheel of a Toyota GT86.

With the Finn calling time on his SUPER GT career at the end of last season, he is free to focus on contesting the full Japan Rally Championship schedule in 2022, and hopes to step up to a faster R5-class car.

On top of that, Kovalainen says he would like to contest Rally Japan should the event finally go ahead this season after being cancelled due to Japan's strict travel restrictions in both 2020 and '21.

"The Japan Rally Championship is my main priority, it’s something I’m very motivated and passionate about," Kovalainen told Motorsport.com. "I know I will never be WRC champion, but I can be competitive in Japan, because I know how things work here and I know some of the roads.

"I hope Rally Japan goes ahead because it would be really nice to do a World Rally event on roads that I know in a competitive car – maybe in a WRC2 car, that would be really fun."

Read Also:

Kovalainen scored his first class win in the JRC back in 2019, and he and co-driver Sae Kitagawa won the JN-2 division in every round in 2021 en route to the championship.

But he admits that more detailed preparation and work in between rallies will be required to step up to what is the top class on the national rallying scene.

 

"If and when we move to the four-wheel drive car, a WRC2-spec car, it does require more commitment and more effort from the team," Kovalainen added. "The GT86 was a pretty simple car; you turn up, fire it up and go. A WRC2 car needs more engineering, it’s a more sophisticated car.

"Me and my co-driver also need to take our pacenotes to another level. We improved a lot this year, but we never really practice except during the rallies themselves. We need to spend more time driving on different roads and making better pacenotes, otherwise it can be dangerous in the WRC2 car.

"Even within the JRC, it has to be a more ‘pro’ effort. That will be the priority."

Kovalainen has yet to firm up any plans for 2022 outside of the JRC, but admitted that making his debut in the Le Mans 24 Hours in June remains on his agenda should the chance arise.

The 40-year-old was due to make his La Sarthe debut last year with the HubAuto Racing Porsche GTE Pro squad, only for a last-minute clash with the Suzuka SUPER GT round to rule him out.

"I haven’t talked to anyone yet about it, and I probably need to start sniffing around to see what opportunities there would be," admitted Kovalainen. "At the moment, I’m not actively looking to fill my schedule, but at the same time I need to find something interesting and motivating.

"I still feel well, I feel I can still drive. In the last few SUPER GT rounds, I felt I could still be competitive when things are going well. So I want to use this time while I can, because eventually my body won’t be able to do it anymore."

 

shares
comments
Hyundai becomes first WRC team to launch 2022 Rally1 car
Previous article

Hyundai becomes first WRC team to launch 2022 Rally1 car

Next article

Breen: Hybrid power brings "third dimension" to WRC driving

Breen: Hybrid power brings "third dimension" to WRC driving
Why Monte Carlo success could spark another past master’s WRC revival Prime

Why Monte Carlo success could spark another past master’s WRC revival

Some 39 years on from his Monte Carlo Rally debut, World Rally Championship legend Francois Delecour continues to pick up silverware. Proving that age is purely a number, the 60-year-old's desire to compete against the WRC’s latest young talents could be the start of a new chapter in the Frenchman’s storied career

WRC
23 h
How fired-up Ogier became the WRC's ultimate Monte master Prime

How fired-up Ogier became the WRC's ultimate Monte master

He may only be contesting a part-time campaign in the World Rally Championship these days, but Sebastien Ogier underlined that he's lost none of his speed in the 2023 season opener. Storming to yet another victory on the Monte Carlo Rally, the eight-time world champion rewrote the history books again as Toyota served notice of its intentions with a crushing 1-2

WRC
Jan 23, 2023
How Lancia pulled off its famous Monte Carlo giantkilling Prime

How Lancia pulled off its famous Monte Carlo giantkilling

Audi should have been invincible in the snowy conditions that typically greeted the World Rally Championship paddock in Monte Carlo. But unexpectedly warm weather for the 1983 season opener, combined with some left-field thinking from the Lancia crew turned the tables. Forty years on, team boss Cesare Fiorio reflects on a smash and grab.

WRC
Jan 21, 2023
Why M-Sport has pinned all its efforts on a WRC reunion Prime

Why M-Sport has pinned all its efforts on a WRC reunion

M-Sport had a disastrous 2022 with its Rally1 Ford Pumas following Sebastien Loeb’s first-time-out win on the Monte. But now things are looking up with 2019 world champion Ott Tanak leading its attack, and the Cumbrian operation has optimism that it can challenge for a first title since Sebastien Ogier's departure at the end of 2018

WRC
Jan 19, 2023
The contenders seeking to take Rovanpera's WRC crown Prime

The contenders seeking to take Rovanpera's WRC crown

As Kalle Rovanpera begins his World Rally Championship title defence in Monte Carlo, the Finn knows he has a target on his back. But who is best placed to knock the Toyota ace off his perch?

WRC
Jan 19, 2023
Why Rovanpera is anticipating a fight to defend his WRC title Prime

Why Rovanpera is anticipating a fight to defend his WRC title

Question: what could be harder than becoming the youngest-ever World Rally champion? Answer: becoming the youngest-ever two-time World Rally champion. That's quite the challenge facing Toyota's Kalle Rovanpera in 2022, particularly against rejuvenated opposition in the second year of the WRC's hybrid regulations.

WRC
Jan 18, 2023
From F1 to WRC: Why Hyundai's new boss could be an inspired signing Prime

From F1 to WRC: Why Hyundai's new boss could be an inspired signing

OPINION: New Hyundai rally team boss Cyril Abiteboul admits he’s got a lot to learn, but his F1 experience and evident strengths could mean he turns out to be an inspired choice.

WRC
Jan 17, 2023
The ultimate rally car project the WRC is glad COVID killed Prime

The ultimate rally car project the WRC is glad COVID killed

Toyota was unstoppable in the 2021 World Rally Championship, with an excellent 75% strike rate from 12 rallies. But in a scary proposition for its rivals, the Japanese marque had built a car for the final year of the previous regulations set which it believes was much faster and could feasibly have crushed the opposition completely. Here the story of its mothballed world-beater.

WRC
Jan 1, 2023