Arriving in Japan, Thierry Neuville had one goal in mind: beating Toyota in its own back yard.
Hyundai had done it in Finland, where Toyota’s World Rally Championship base is located, so why not in the homeland of the company itself?
With Rally Japan returning for the first time since 2010, the pressure was on for the Japanese manufacturer to deliver the goods in front of its home fans and employees, especially given the fact it has been so dominant all season.
And for a while, that looked set to happen.
Its talisman Kalle Rovanperä may have faltered but, where he fell down, Elfyn Evans stepped up.
Despite having struggled with his Yaris GR Rally1 for the majority of the season, Evans suddenly found the rhythm on the tight and technical stages that Rally Japan had to offer and he quickly put himself in control of the rally, and on course for his first win of the season.
But while Neuville struggled to keep pace at times, he kept the fight tight, and on SS16 the fight fell his way after Evans picked up a puncture and was forced to stop to change the wheel.
From then on there was no looking back, and Neuville took his second rally win of the year.
However, it wasn’t just his victory that pleased Neuville the most. It was the fact that Hyundai managed to get a 1-2, rubbing salt even further into Toyota’s wound.
“It doesn’t matter where, Toyota is always difficult to beat,” Neuville explained to DirtFish.
“But the season was over, the championships are over and the target was clearly to beat them on their home soil. And we have achieved that goal, with two cars.
“So we can be proud of that result for sure.
“But yeah, next year is a different challenge again. It’s going to be a bit tough again and every single round counts.”
Although Neuville had his eyes solely on Toyota during the course of Rally Japan, the event also provided a secondary motivational factor for Hyundai’s deputy team director Julien Moncet.
For him, it wasn’t just about beating Toyota. Several individuals from South Korea – Hyundai’s home country – had made the trip to Japan, and Moncet was determined for his drivers to demonstrate what they are truly capable of in front of their home fans as well.
“For sure it gave us a bit more motivation to beat Toyota here and in Finland,” said Moncet.
“We asked the guys before the rally to do something special here.
“Not only because of Toyota but as well because Korea is not that far.
“We have a lot of people coming from Korea as well here, so it was important for us.
“It was maybe a special motivation this rally.”