Toyota team principal Jari-Matti Latvala summed up his team’s Rally Japan perfectly.
“We came here with one aim which was to take the victory, and eventually we filled every step of the podium. It’s really a dream result.”
Having been beaten in its backyard last year by a Hyundai one-two, Toyota’s reply was profound in 2023.
Aside from Thierry Neuville topping SS1 for Hyundai, the rest of the rally was led by Elfyn Evans’ Toyota GR Yaris Rally1. And after Neuville crashed on Friday afternoon, Toyotas locked out the top three places courtesy of Sébastien Ogier and Kalle Rovanperä.
In its current guise Toyota has grown used to success, with three consecutive championship doubles from 2021-’23 and, amazingly, 1-2-3-4 finishes on the past two editions of Safari Rally Kenya.
But there’s something extra special about winning at home, and doing it in the manner that Toyota did, so it’s no surprise then that Toyota’s chairman Akio Toyoda was a very happy man on Sunday evening.
“Elfyn and Scott, congratulations on your victory! You two did a great job to collect last year’s forgotten items! Thank you for taking me to the podium two times this year,” said Toyoda.
“Séb and Vincent, I was finally able to stand on the podium with you! Thank you for enjoying the Japanese roads more than last year. Kalle and Jonne, it was also my first time to be on the podium with you! It was also the first rally where you didn’t experience any big trouble when I am on-site. Thank you for showing us the champion’s run!
“Takamoto and Aaron, you showed us your ability to drive really fast. We also saw a Takamoto who never gives up after trouble. I was really happy to see a Takamoto who has become this strong. Thank you for making big progress as a world-level driver!
“Jari-Matti and everybody in the team, thank you for coming back home together with the champion titles, and thank you for giving us the best result! It was a really great season.”
Toyoda hopes Toyota’s success will boost the popularity of rallying in Japan, and inspire the next generation to compete.
“‘To foster the culture of rallying through continuous improvement in a Japanese way’ and ‘to make the rally an essential autumn tradition in Japan’ – these are the things I wished for after Rally Japan last year. Rally Japan this year made all of these things come true,” he said.
“The most impressive thing was that we were able to use Toyota Stadium as one of the special stages. Being able to watch the top drivers driving up close. Being able to drive in front of that many spectators. It was a rally full of exciting and amazing experiences for both fans and drivers.
“I believe the powerful performance of rally cars will stay in the children’s memories. Kalle, Elfyn, Takamoto and Jari-Matti became rally drivers as they were so close to rallying when they were kids. I also came to love motorsports because my father often took me to circuits in my childhood.
“If we continue this kind of rally event, I am sure that motorsport will become a culture in Japan and be more popular. I would like to thank everyone who worked so hard to make Rally Japan 2023 a great success.”