Will snow provide the sting in Rally Japan’s tail?

Weather has already been a big feature of this week's Rally Japan, could overnight snow offer one more twist?

Monza snow 3

It’s Colin Clark. On the phone. Having caught sight of the weather forecast, I knew what was coming. Even the ringtone fizzed with a little more Scottish excitement.

There was no avoiding it.

“David,” was the urgent greeting, “it’s snowing. It’s actually snowing!”

That was today. It was the same on the season-closer three years ago.

On that December Friday in 2020, I was coughing at a time when it wasn’t good to be coughing and forced to miss a much-anticipated trip to Monza. I felt like I was there. Over the phone.

Monza snow 2

Few will forget the snow that greeted crews heading into the Selvino stage on that Saturday morning. Will it be the same on a Sunday morning in Aichi?

Col’s call confirms it’s definitely – maybe – going to snow. And the forecast agrees. Overnight temperatures will hover around freezing point with snow falling on the stages during the hours of darkness.

Big question is: how long will it last? By the time the cars are heading into Sunday’s opener, the temperatures are set to rise to four or five degrees with cloudless skies and sunshine. Will it stay? Or will it go?

Let’s see. After Friday’s insane rain and with snow already falling in Saturday’s second pass of Lake Mikawako, nothing would surprise weather watchers at round 13. Certainly not Sébastien Ogier.

Snow is coming. It's going to be unbelievably exciting! Colin Clark

“This rally is far from over,” the eight-time champion told DirtFish. “Tomorrow the weather is supposed to be better, but it’s not so clear now. It’s going to be very cold in the morning and we had a bit of snow today… who knows what will happen tomorrow morning! We have to wait and see and when we wake-up we have to make one more clever tire choice.”

In Monza three years ago the crews ran on asphalt-specification tires in snow and ice in conditions compromised by the weather.

Toyota team principal Jari-Matti Latvala has been there and done that.

“I remember sometimes on Rally GB,” said the Finn, “when we had some snow and ice and we didn’t have the tires for that condition. If it starts to snow and don’t have the right tires, like I said, I have been in this position, then maybe we have to cancel the first pass and if it then melts down we can go on the second pass.”

Elfyn Evans

We’re perhaps getting ahead of ourselves with talk of cancelled Sunday stages. But there’s snow in the forecast and Friday definitely demonstrated how the forecast can underplay what’s coming.

Fortunately, Colin’s not underplaying anything.

“Snow,” he said. “It’s coming. Definitely snowing. Everywhere. It’s going to be an unbelievably exciting Sunday!”

Thierry Neuville is warming to the chilly theme.

“Maybe,” he smiled, “all the Toyotas will retire and we can still have a party.”