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Mon 14 Nov 2022

Neuville: Japan win is important for the team

Thierry Neuville’s triumph at last week’s FORUM8 Rally Japan was a much-needed boost for Hyundai Motorsport, says the Belgian.

For Neuville, by his own admission, it was just another victory. But for Hyundai Motorsport, which finished second to Toyota Gazoo Racing in the manufacturers’ championship, it meant much more than that. 

Japan returned to the WRC for the first time since 2010 and quickly turned into a two-way fight between Neuville and GR Yaris rival Elfyn Evans. The former moved into the lead on Saturday afternoon and, when Evans stopped to change a wheel on Sunday, he was left more than a minute clear at the top. 

Heading a Hyundai 1-2 ahead of Ott Tänak, it marked Neuville’s second win of the season and the fifth for his team - which struggled to match Toyota in the first half of the year with its hybrid-powered i20 N Rally1.

“I mean, for myself it's just another victory,” Neuville admitted. “But for the team - for everyone who has been working all year in the workshop and in the office, some who don't go to events as well - I think it’s a great achievement.

“There's no secret: if you win a rally, it's because you had a good weekend where everything went well from beginning to end. If it doesn't, you don't win the rally. It's always like this.

“Everybody was so excited at the prospect of going to Japan to try and beat Toyota and, in the end, it's a really big victory for them. The second part of this year was definitely a bit stronger - we got better results, more podiums, and to end with a double podium here is a good boost going into 2023,” he added. 

FORUM8 Rally Japan 2022: Event Highlights

Team principal Julien Moncet echoed Neuville’s comments. He said the result proved just how far his squad has come since the season-opening Rallye Monte-Carlo, where Neuville was the highest-placed i20 N driver in sixth overall. 

"At the start of the year, to be honest, just to win somewhere would have been a big achievement," he said. "Now that we have won five times, for sure we can be proud and happy. 

"Winning here in Japan against Toyota is maybe the extra motivation we were looking for. It's a special taste for this one.

"It is a bit of paradox: this is one of our most successful seasons but we haven't won any championships. But, considering the difficult moments we have been through, it's good to be back."

Hyundai is yet to announce its 2023 driver line-up. Neuville has confirmed he’ll be back for more - but with Tänak now departed and Oliver Solberg dropped earlier in the year, the Korean marque does have some positions to fill.