Hiroki Arai leads at Rally Montre

After the opening day of Montre 2024, the third round of the FIA Asia Pacific Rally Championship (APRC), Hiroki Arai and co-driver Shunsuke Matsuo hold a 19.2-second lead in their Skoda Fabia.

Among the 16 teams competing for APRC points, Arai seized the lead from early advantage holders Norihiko Katsuta and Yusuke Kimura in their Toyota Yaris Rally2, who now sit in second place. Meanwhile, the 1999 APRC champion Katsuhiko Taguchi, making a comeback as a substitute for Heikki Kovalainen, who is recovering from illness, secured third position in his Toyota GR Yaris Rally2.

The action began at the Annaka Shinkumi Sports Centre on Saturday morning with two loops of three special stages. Arai set the fastest times in five out of the six stages, including the highly anticipated SS3 and SS4 on the old Usui Pass Road, which served as the gallery stage and drew large crowds.

This year’s rally, held in conjunction with the Japanese Rally Championship, featured a diverse lineup of vehicles, including Toyota, Skoda, and Citroen Rally 2 cars, competing across the scenic and challenging stages around Annaka in Gunma Prefecture.

As the rally heads into its second and final day on Sunday, June 9, competitors will face two loops of two special stages, covering an additional 41 km. The battle for the top positions ensures that the podium placings are all up for grabs.

APRC Standings After SS6 (66.60 km):

1. Hiroki Arai / Shunsuke Matsuo – Skoda Fabia R5 – 1st
2. Norihiko Katsuta / Yusuke Kimura – Toyota GR Yaris Rally2 – +19.2 seconds
3. Katsuhiko Taguchi / Sae Kitagawa – Toyota GR Yaris Rally2 – +42.7 seconds
4. Fumio Nutahara / Shungo Azuma – Toyota GR Yaris Rally2 – +1:16.2
5. Toshi Arai / Souta Inoue – Subaru WRX S4 – +1:25.0

Photo courtesy Rally Montre