With his first World Rally Championship title long since secured, Kalle Rovanperä entered last year’s season finale in Japan without any pressure whatsoever.
He was free to attack in pursuit of one last victory in a glorious campaign – a win that would have meant so much to Toyota in its own backyard.
The result? A 12th place finish after an uncharacteristic mistake (hitting a rock face on Saturday’s SS8) put paid to any dreams of glory on Rally Japan.
Fast-forward 12 months and the pre-Japan situation the Finn finds himself in is almost identical.
His world championship is in the bag, again. The manufacturers’ world title for Toyota has been secured, again.
And Rovanperä could perhaps be forgiven for lacking some motivation for stages which he admits are “not gonna be the best” for him due to their slow and technical nature.
But that isn’t the case. The world champion wants to put right the wrongs of his previous outing on the tight, twisty roads around Nagoya.
“I think last year we didn’t have the best performance there,” said Rovanperä. “Me, personally, I was not so quick there, so for sure I want to improve on that.
“It’s the home rally of the team. For sure we have no pressure now about the championship, so we can enjoy it a bit more. But I think this year for sure, me and Jonne [Halttunen, co-driver] are gonna push more for the better result.
“And let’s hope we can give a good result for the team.”
Halttunen did suggest a change in approach was necessary for the season finale in order to find the winning edge that was lacking in Japan last time out.
“If we think about it in quite a different way, that it’s a challenge, [and] we like challenges,” said the Finn. “So if we think of it as something we’d like to overcome and defeat, then maybe that’s the key.
“I don’t see a reason why we couldn’t do a good result there.”
Whatever approach the double World Rally champions decide to take, it’s clear that the duo still aren’t the biggest fans of the Japanese asphalt stages after last year’s experience.
“It’s super slow mickey mouse stages. And Japan has quite a lot of them.” said Halttunen.
“All of them!” added Rovanperä.
That opinion might change with a victory next week.