How lovely it is to see the WRC back in Japan, its second year back since its fiery return post-COVID, and a longer gap all the way back to 2010 before that. And on the first stage of the first full day of rallying, three cars crashed, two of them off the road, two of them into each other.
The first off was Japanese driver hoping to win, Takamoto Katsuta. Things were honestly looking good for him. He was in a factory Toyota, the top car at the moment, and his teammate and reigning champion Kalle Rovanperä was stuck basically doing sweep as first on the road. So wet were the mountains that Rovanperä was mostly just splashing standing water out of the way for everyone else behind him. In any case, Katsuta was flying down the stage, until he wasn't. On a greasy right hander after a narrow bridge, Katsuta plowed straight on into a tree, busting his radiator open. He finished the stage on electric power only, topping up his radiator with water he collected from a nearby stream. This is the spirit of rally.
On that very same corner, Dani Sordo also plowed straight, dodged the trees, but then went down off the road, into a ditch, and into a brook. Sordo in his Hyundai was another driver with a shot at taking the win, which would have been a real embarrassment for home team Toyota.
Not far down the order was Adrien Fourmaux in his Ford Puma. On that very same corner, he also plowed straight, went down off the road, into a ditch, and next to the wrecked car of Sordo. "I've seen an awful lot in my time in rallying," commentator Colin Clark said standing over the cars wedged into the river rocks, "but I have never seen a sight quite like that."
Please watch the highlights above for some almost comedic shenanigans through the rest of the rally (thankfully not as dramatic as things were in the last WRC event), including Ott Tänak trying to drive through the heavy fog when his defroster wasn't working. This is what peak driving performance looks like.
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