Arai secures victory at Montre 2024

The Montre 2024 rally, the third round of the FIA Asia-Pacific Rally Championship (APRC) Series, concluded with Hiroki Arai and Shunsuke Matsuo securing overall victory in their Skoda Fabia R5. The 7-9 June round of the APRC was based from the inland host city of Annaka and contested across ten all-tarmac special stages.

With Sunday being the second and final day, the weather was more overcast than the summer blue skies of the Saturday. It commenced with a testing 41 km battle over two loops of two special stages, with the long stage of SS8/10 “Grandma Kimura (12.46 km)” being the one where the leaders shone. The Service Park at the Annaka Shinkumi Sports Centre was once again briming with spectators, eager to witness the immaculately prepared cars take to the challenging roads of the Gunma Prefecture.

Arai and Matsuo, having accrued a lead of 19.2sec on the first day, maintained their dominance by setting the fastest times in all four stages on the final day.

Hiroki Arai, Rally Montre 2024
Their flawless performance earned them their first overall win in the APRC and full Asia Cup points. This victory marks their third win out of five rounds in the Japanese Rally Championship this season.
Rally Montre 2024 podium
The Toyota GR Yaris Rally2 team of Norihiko Katsuta and Yusuke Kimura finished in second place, trailing Arai and Matsuo by 30 seconds. Although they were unable to match the pace of the leaders, their consistent performance secured them a well-deserved place on the podium.

Katsuhiko Taguchi, the 1999 APRC champion, along with co-driver Sae Kitagawa, returned to fill the final podium placing, after a long hiatus. The pair finished in third place, 1min 32.6sec behind the leaders in their Toyota GR Yaris Rally2. Taguchi’s return added a nostalgic element to the event, delighting long-time rally fans.

In the Pacific Cup category, the Subaru WRX STI driven by Takuma Kamada and Yuichi Matsumoto claimed top points, finishing sixth overall. Their impressive performance in the Pacific Cup further highlighted the competitive diversity of this year’s Montre rally.

Staying in the Asia region, the series fourth (of six) round moves across to Indonesia for the Danau Toba Rally 2-4 August.

Each round qualifies its competitors to contest the all-in final, being held at New Zealand’s International Rally of Whangarei 8-10 November.

Overall results – Montre 2024
1. Hiroki Arai / Shunsuke Matsuo – Skoda Fabia R5 – Asia – 1st
2. Norihiko Katsuta / Yusuke Kimura – Toyota GR Yaris Rally2 – Asia – +30.0 seconds
3. Katsuhiko Taguchi / Sae Kitagawa – Toyota GR Yaris Rally2 – Asia – +1:32.6
4. Fumio Nutahara / Shungo Azuma – Toyota GR Yaris Rally2 – Asia – +1:59.8
5. Toshi Arai / Souta Inoue – Subaru WRX S4 – Asia – +2:19.9
6. Takuma Kamada / Yuichi Matsumoto – Subaru WRX STI – Pacific – +3:09.5

Images courtesy Rally Montre