Though he finished second in the Central European Rally, Kalle Rovanperä scored enough points to secure the 2023 World Rally Championship over Elfyn Evans. The title’s secured but the WRC calendar brings the grid to Japan for the 2023 season finale. The WRC FORUM8 Rally Japan odds slightly favor Rovanperä for a win to cap off another championship year.
FORUM8 Rally Japan Favorites
Kalle Rovanperä (+180 to win, -217 for top 3)
The world champion sealed his title on the tarmac last week in Europe. He’ll have another tarmac challenge this weekend in Japan, an event he’s yet to win in the WRC’s top level.
This weekend marks just the second Rally Japan event of his WRC career. Last season he finished 12th and more than 10 minutes behind the winner. He’s only won one tarmac event in his WRC career: the 2022 Croatia Rally.
Thierry Neuville (+190, -213)
Neuville earned his second win of the season last time out in Europe. The final result wasn’t very close, either; he took the top spot on the podium by nearly a whole minute over Rovanperä, hence why he’s so close to the top of the WRC betting odds.
He’ll be happy to see Japan’s tarmac once again. He won this event last season and nearly half of his career wins have come on tarmac surface events. He’ll be starting third in the order and, so long as he doesn’t run into car trouble, he’s a near-lock for the podium.
Sébastien Ogier (+280, -208)
Ogier returns for the final two events of the 2023 WRC schedule. He finished fourth in Europe and more than two minutes behind Neuville. He’s enjoying his part-time season and will look to finish strong again in Japan.
He’s won this rally before but back when it was a gravel event in 2010. Last year he finished fourth in this event. He’s won a tarmac event this year with his win in the season-opening Rallye de Monte-Carlo. Ogier may contend here but may not make the podium.
WRC FORUM8 Rally Japan Odds: Sleepers for Victory
Elfyn Evans (+600, -105)
Evans saw his bid for the 2023 championship end spectacularly with a crash into a barn. The Toyota driver instead saw his teammate seal the title with an insurmountable gap in the WRC standings. Though there’s nothing left to fight for in Japan, Evans would do well to end the season on a high. He’s only won one career WRC event on tarmac, the Croatia Rally earlier this year. He could get to the top step again or at least earn a bit of redemption with a podium.
Ott Tänak (+800, +136)
The Finnish driver fell out of touch with Rovanperä since the summer began. After four top-five finishes in four races, he managed just three in the following seven events.
Japan marks his final race with M-Sport Ford for the foreseeable future ahead of his switch back to Hyundai in 2024. He’s won four career WRC races on tarmac, specifically the Rallye Deutschland and Ypres Rally. With a bump in form lately, he could surprise in the 2023 finale.
Esapekka Lappi (+5400, +350)
Would it be an incredible surprise to see Lappi on the top step of the podium? Absolutely. But the Finn did race to a podium on tarmac in Croatia. After three retirements in the last four WRC races, he’s overdue for a bounce-back event.
Rally Japan Predictions
The WRC FORUM8 Rally Japan odds put Rovanperä just a hair ahead of Neuville, as it should be. Neuville’s been in great form since the summer with two wins and another three podiums in seven events. He’s won consecutive events just three times in his WRC career in 2017, 2018, and 2019. He’s our choice to do it once again.
A podium of Neuville, Rovanperä, and Evans seems likely. Neuville’s the hot hand at the moment, Rovanperä’s the driver of the season, and Evans needs a rebound from that unceremonious end to a title challenge.