World Rally champion Kalle Rovanperä has made it two sensational victories from two weekends as he won the second round of Formula Drift Japan at Ebisu Circuit.
Trading his Toyota GR Yaris Rally1 for a purpose-built Toyota GR Corolla drift car that had never been driven before the weekend, Rovanperä was imperious throughout to win on his series debut.
Topping qualifying on Saturday and then reaching the final to square off against the Toyota GR Supra of Masanori Kohashi on Sunday, the 22-year-old belied his lack of professional drifting experience to outscore Kohashi on the lead run.
But he was guaranteed the victory on the chase as his Japanese rival faltered at the first turn, coming in too hot, wiping out the clipping points and drifting off into the dirt.
Rovanperä nearly followed him in but kept out of the gravel and completed his run with another gorgeous smoke show.
That made the end result a foregone conclusion, but Rovanperä had done everything perfectly even before Kohashi’s mistake.
“It feels really amazing to be honest,” Rovanperä smiled.
“It’s the first time [drifting] in Japan, really a new challenge for me. New car, GR Corolla, was working very well.
“I have to thank the team, they did a really good job working with the car the whole week doing a lot of work.”
Rovanperä is already scheduled to compete in four Drift Masters European Championship events this season, starting in Sweden the week after his next World Rally Championship round in Sardinia.
But he teased that there is a “big chance” he will be back in Japan soon.
“Up next, we don’t know,” Rovanperä began.
“We have a lot of drifting and rallying in Europe, but there is a big chance that you will see me again in Japan in Formula Drift.
“Let’s see what happens, but I would be really pleased to come here. Big thanks to my guys from Finland who were helping me, my spotter, and also my sponsors who make this happen.
“Thank you a lot and it was really nice to be here.”