It was 2004 when the long-cherished wish of Japan’s rally fans and parties concerned finally came true with the WRC’s invitation to Japan. This feat overcame the conventional wisdom that the WRC, which uses public roads, could not be hosted in Japan. Up to 2007, Rally Japan was held in Hokkaido’s Tokachi-Obihiro area, and then in 2008 and 2010 it was held in Central Hokkaido (the rally was not held in 2009 due to hosting rotation), with Sapporo as the host town. The Rally Japan events hosted by Obihiro were organized with a ceremonial start in the Obihiro City center, attracting large numbers of fans each time. At the events hosted in Sapporo there was buzz around a number of topics, including placement of the service park in Sapporo Dome and preparations for the Super SS, in which two cars start simultaneously.
Subaru’s Peter Solberg won the inaugural rally in 2004. In 2005, the winner was Peugeot’s Marcus Grönholm, and the 2006 winner was Sébastien Loeb, with Citroën. Mikko Hirvonen, with Ford, achieved consecutive wins in 2007 and 2008, and then in 2010, Citroën’s Sébastien Ogier earned his second WRC victory.
The WRC has not been hosted in Japan since 2010 due to an economic recession and other factors, including the withdrawal of Japanese manufacturers from the WRC. However, the rally has assuredly taken root in Japan, with the APRC (Asia-Pacific Rally Championship) continuing to be held in the Tokachi-Obihiro area of Hokkaido. Passion for the rally has remained, like the embers of a smoldering fire.
Now, there have been new developments. Along with domestic rally reforms and spreading awareness of the rally, the return of Toyota to the WRC has led to calls to bring the WRC back to Japan. This new stage will be in the Chubu area, centered on Aichi and Gifu prefectures. Unfortunately, however, it was unable to be included in the 2019 calendar.
Though Japan was selected to host 2020’s final WRC race at the FIA World Motor Sport Council, the event was canceled due to the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. Then in 2021, even though we had been eagerly preparing in the hope of hosting the rally, the prolongment of the nationwide impacts of COVID-19 resulted in the unfortunate cancellation of the event for the second consecutive year.
However, we have some very good news to share. In 2021, we welcomed FORUM8 as a title partner, and hosting preparations are underway for FORUM8 Rally Japan 2022, to be held November 10–13, 2022. Heading into 2022, we have made a new start.
The rally will be held in the same areas as planned for 2021, in six cities and towns across two prefectures: Okazaki City, Toyota City, Shinshiro City, and Shitara Town in Aichi Prefecture, and Ena City and Nakatsugawa City in Gifu Prefecture. The service park and press room will be placed in Toyota Stadium, with the headquarters at Sky Hall Toyota. A variety of scheduled events, including special stages and liaisons, are in the process of being finalized. Along with everyone in the host areas, we want to continue to inject excitement into the rally while building relationships of trust and aiming for success. While caution is still required regarding COVID-19, we will do our utmost to be able to hold the event in 2022, while taking the greatest possible care for the health of everyone living the host areas, spectators, drivers and staff, and everyone at related companies. In response to everyone’s support, we intend to deliver an appealing rally event. Stay tuned!