Four times world rally champion and living legend of the sport, Tommi Makinen is to drive a course safety car during the inaugural World Rally Championship round in Japan.
The idea to invite the famous driver to drive the ‘0’ car was there from the beginning of the year. However, the FIA regulations prohibit any Priority 2 or seeded ‘A’ driver from driving course cars. A waiver from the FIA was recently granted after agreement from all Manufacturer Teams was received.
Makinen’s coming is no doubt great news for Japan, where thousands of his fans have admired his talent for all the years he drove for two Japanese manufacturers entered in the World Rally Championship. Even today you can see many WRC Lancer and Impreza replicas driving around with his name adorning their side windows.
Tommi Makinen himself said: “I am pleased to be personally involved in the first WRC Round in Japan. I look forward to driving in Hokkaido before the Japanese fans. It is my first event in a right-hand drive car so I will do a little practice before the rally. See you in Hokkaido! ”
Co-driving for the ace will be young French rallyist, Matthieu Baumel who is currently contesting the Junior World Rally Championship.
Full Entry for Rally Japan
Competitor entries for Rally Japan closed on July 28. Over 120 applications were received leaving the organisers with some very difficult decisions on which to accept. The final entry list has 90 entrants, the maximum allowed under FIA regulations.
Drivers and co-drivers from 17 countries are coming to Japan for the inaugural World Rally Championship event which is to take place in Hokkaido less than a month from now. With Mitsubishi dropping out of the WRC after the Deutschland Rally, four manufacturer teams will compete for Championship points. A total of 58 rally teams will compete to have their names written down in history as the first ever group and class winners of Rally Japan.
Nine cars of ninety will also be competing for the Asia-Pacific Rally Championship points on Legs Two and Three. Most of the competitors registered in that Championship have contested Rally Hokkaido before and September will show if experience gives them any advantage over the rest of the field.
Again this year Japanese rally fans’ attention will be focused on two Japanese drivers, Toshi Arai and Fumio Nutahara, now contesting the Production Car World Rally Championship and entered as privateers in Rally Japan. Last year their rivalry during Rally Hokkaido was interrupted by Nutahara’s retirement on Leg 2 due to mechanical failure.
International privateer competitors include last year’s Australian Rally Champion (ARC) Cody Crocker, competing for Subaru Rally Team Japan; Dean Herridge, Crocker’s team member in the ARC who is competing for Tokyo Subaru; and teams entered from Russia and Germany.
As expected, for a rally in Japan, the entry list is dominated by Japanese manufacturers. Mitsubishi has the biggest group with 37 entries, Subaru has 24 and Suzuki, Daihatsu, Honda , Nissan and Toyota are also represented. Other marques include Peugeot, Citroen, Ford, Proton and Skoda.