Ex-F1 racer Kovalainen plans Japan WRC entry, eyes European outings - Motor Informed

Ex-F1 racer Kovalainen plans Japan WRC entry, eyes European outings

After calling time on his Super GT career at the end of last year, the previous Renault, McLaren and Caterham F1 driver has centered on his Japan Rally Championship commitments this 12 months.

Driving a Rally2-spec Skoda Fabia run by Group Aicello, he and co-driver Sae Kitagawa have gained 5 of the six JRC rallies to this point this 12 months and may safe the title with a spherical to go in subsequent month’s penultimate occasion, Rally Hokkaido.

As soon as the ultimate two occasions of the JRC season are accomplished, Kovalainen will flip his consideration to the primary spherical of the WRC to happen in Japan since 2010 on 10-13 November.

Chatting with Autosport, Kovalainen says he relishing the prospect to check himself towards higher-level competitors within the Nagoya-based occasion than he has confronted this 12 months within the JRC.

PLUS: How Kovalainen’s F1 “scars” were healed by racing in Japan 

“It ought to be a pleasant occasion however rather a lot more durable than JRC,” stated the Finn.

“I’d prefer to see the place we’re. I’m fairly positive we’re behind, however I simply don’t know the way a lot.

“I suppose as a result of Japan is way away and with it being the ultimate spherical of the season, I don’t know who will come there [among the WRC2 regulars], however hopefully a number of of the great guys will.

“Tarmac can be the perfect likelihood for us, so I’m hoping the hole isn’t huge, but it surely would possibly nonetheless be fairly important.

“Additionally we’re utilizing Dunlop tyres in JRC and within the WRC we’ve got to make use of Pirelli. We are going to do a check earlier than the rally [to get used to the Pirellis], however in the mean time I don’t know if the grip stage goes to be higher or worse than on Dunlops.”

Heikki Kovalainen, Sae Kitagawa (Rally Team AICELLO)

Heikki Kovalainen, Sae Kitagawa (Rally Group AICELLO)

Photograph by: Izumi Hiromoto

Kovalainen stepped as much as the JRC’s high JN-1 division this 12 months after profitable final 12 months’s JN-2 class for two-wheel drive vehicles, having mixed his Tremendous GT actions for Toyota with a programme of occasions on the home rallying scene for a while.

Admitting that the step as much as four-wheel drive has come simpler than anticipated, Kovalainen says he has additionally been pleased to show his velocity on gravel in addition to tarmac.

“The latest rally was the primary one on gravel, in order that was a query mark as I haven’t achieved a lot on gravel at all around the years,” he stated.

“It turned out effectively, but it surely was a a lot nearer battle than we’ve got had on tarmac.

“Now we’ve got lead within the championship. It’s one thing like three.eight factors we’d like [from the final two rounds], so it’s not lots. We simply want to remain on the highway. 

“I’d prefer to go to the ultimate rally [Rally Highland Masters] and simply deal with going quick as an alternative of scoring factors. I simply need to go as onerous as I can and see what occurs. 

“So it could be good if we might wrap it up at Rally Hokkaido, after which it could be good observe for the WRC to simply deal with going as quick as doable.”

Requested about his seemingly 2023 plans, Kovalainen stated it could be an “possibility” to remain within the JRC for a probable title defence however admitted to curiosity in doing extra European rallying.

“It might be fairly cool to strive one thing in Europe,” he admitted. “The Finnish championship is fairly aggressive, but it surely’s solely on gravel and snow which is sort of completely different for me.

Heikki Kovalainen, Sae Kitagawa (Rally Team AICELLO)

Heikki Kovalainen, Sae Kitagawa (Rally Group AICELLO)

Photograph by: Izumi Hiromoto

“It might be good to do extra rounds of the WRC within the WRC2 automobile as effectively. 

“I don’t have massive plans in rallying, I’m not going to be WRC champion and even Finnish champion… it’s not about that. It’s nearly having fun with driving and performing some driving with out having a large schedule and having time for different issues.”

Nonetheless, he admitted the probabilities of a comeback to top-level circuit racing, including a debut in the Le Mans 24 Hours that he missed out on last year, at the moment are realistically receding.

“In fact it could be cool to do [Le Mans], however now I’ve been virtually a 12 months away from circuit racing and it solely will get more durable and more durable to return again,” stated the 40-year-old.

“Sooner or later there shall be a restrict the place you’ve gotten to take action a lot catching up and getting again into form… I wouldn’t need to go there and really feel like I’m lower than it anymore. So probably, I’m not going to do it.”



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