Heikki Kovalainen’s return rally and debut in a Toyota ended in disappointment

Heikki Kovalainen's comeback race following his spring heart surgery did not go as hoped.
Heikki Kovalainen
Heikki Kovalainen. Photo by: Rally Japan
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Kovalainen was in sixth place after the first day of the Kamuy Rally and held the same position before the final special stage. However, technical issues arose, causing Kovalainen to lose nearly eight minutes on the final stage. This dropped him to 14th place overall.

“Heikki drove strongly on Sunday’s second loop on SS11, recording the second fastest time. It looked like Heikki was finding his pace, but the last stage brought problems with the car. Consequently, the result was 14th,” Kovalainen’s AICELLO team reported on Facebook.

“Heikki made his comeback, and this was also his debut with the GR Yaris Rally2 car. We learned a lot from this rally, and it’s a good foundation to build on for the next rally in Hokkaido.”

Kovalainen was competing for the first time in a Toyota, having previously driven a Škoda. In addition to learning the quirks of the new car, Kovalainen had to ensure he was fit to drive before the rally, following an open-heart surgery in April to address an aortic aneurysm.

Kovalainen dominated the Japanese Rally Championship last season. It is expected that his pace will improve at the Hokkaido Rally in early September. The Japanese rally season will conclude on Kovalainen’s preferred surface, tarmac, in October in Takayama.

Hiroki Arai, driving a Škoda, won the Kamuy Rally. Norihiko Katsuta, the father of Toyota WRC team driver Takamoto Katsuta, finished second, a minute behind Arai. Toyota secured two Rally2 cars on the podium, with Fumio Nutahara finishing third after Katsuta.

Final results of the Kamuy Rally:

1. Hiroki AraiSkoda1:03:59.5
2. Norihiko KatsutaToyota+1:00.8
3.Fumio NutaharaToyota+1:13.6
4.Osamu FukunagaSkoda+1:42.4
5.Toshihiro AraiSubaru+1:57.4
6.Takuma KamadaSubaru+3:37.6

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