Thierry Neuville of team HYUNDAI SHELL MOBIS WORLD RALLY TEAM seen during the Rally Japan in Toyota City, Japan on November 13, 2022.
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Thierry Neuville victorious as Hyundai rains on Toyota’s Rally Japan parade

Belgian driver Thierry Neuville scored a fifth WRC success of the season in an incredible 2022 turnaround for Hyundai Motorsport – get up to speed with all the action here.
Written by David Evans
4 min readPublished on
Let’s step back to the top of the 2022 World Rally Championship. To Rallye Monte-Carlo and a conversation with arguably the most harassed man in motorsport, Hyundai Motorsport deputy team principal Julien Moncet.
Parachuted into the position ahead of the first round, Hyundai’s engine expert was suddenly in charge of the Korean manufacturer’s entire WRC operation. By his own admission, round one was something of a disaster. Thierry Neuville’s i20 N Rally1 was the only one of three cars to make the finish – and the Belgian was seven minutes off the pace.
“Just getting to the start of this rally was a result for us,” said Moncet, going on to describe the nightmare that had been the team’s preparations for the new generation of hybrid rally cars.
Had you asked him harbourside in the principality about the chances of beating Toyota in Toyota town 10 months down the road, he would have laughed in your face.
All of which makes Neuville’s Rally Japan victory so much sweeter.
Thierry Neuville  Martijn Wydaeghe of team HYUNDAI SHELL MOBIS WORLD RALLY TEAM seen performing during Rally Japan in Toyota city, Japan on November 13, 2022.

Thierry Neuville claimed a dramatic win in Japan

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On a soaking wet Sunday in Toyota City, Neuville achieved what he set out to. Namely, to spoil Toyota’s double world championship-winning party.
And then he did it.

How did Neuville do that?

It’s a testament to the hard work and dedication of Moncet’s Hyundai team that they could pick themselves up from being nowhere to winning a record-breaking fifth event. That mid-season work on the car delivered performance and reliability, allowing Neuville to challenge the champions. And then to beat them.
And beat them in some style. Two days of dry asphalt racing east of Nagoya delivered a fantastic final-day fight, as Neuville led Toyota’s last remaining hope Elfyn Evans by four seconds on Sunday morning (world champions Sébastien Ogier and Kalle Rovanperä were both hit by punctures).
Everything was ready. Everything was set. Neuville wanted the win and Evans really needed it as he chased what would be his first victory of the season.
Elfyn Evans of team TOYOTA GAZOO RACING WRT seen during the Rally Japan in Toyota City, Japan on November 12, 2022.

Evans had led for much of the rally

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With heavy rain looming, the pair took widely differing tyre choices. Toyota gambled on dry and damp, while Hyundai went with the wet option.
Ultimately, the deal was done before the weather intervened.
Having slashed the gap to just six-tenths of a second after the opener, Evans was caught out on Sunday’s second test.
“There was a lot going on, the section was pretty busy,” said Evans. “We had it marked as ‘slippery’ but I was already braking [when the ‘slippery’ was called by his co-driver]. We ran wide and got a puncture, we had to stop and change it. It was one of those things. We wanted to win, we gave it our best shot and unfortunately it just didn’t work out.”
That mishap gifted Neuville a one-minute lead, but Evans knew victory would always be a struggle once the heavens opened. And then opened properly to turn the final stage into something resembling part-river, part-road.
Thierry Neuville and Martijn Wydaeghe celebrate victory at the World Rally Championship in Toyota City, Japan on November 13, 2022.

Neuville celebrates after a thrilling final day

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“We would have had no chance without any wets,” he said grimly.
Neuville refused to be rattled by Evans’ success in the first stage of the day, pointing to what he confidently predicted would be the right tyre choice across the day’s running.
On hearing of Evans’ downfall, the leader was quick to recognise the Welshman’s challenge.
“It’s a shame for Elfyn,” he said. “I was enjoying the fight. But now I have to stay concentrated. There is still a long way to go and the rain is coming.”
Takamoto Katsuta of team TOYOTA GAZOO RACING WRT seen during Rally Japan in Toyota City, Japan on November 11, 2022.

Takamoto Katsuta impressed in his home rally

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He didn’t put a wheel wrong as season moved into its final act.
Crossing the line, he led home a Hyundai one-two.
Job done.
“Toyota,” said the winner, with a smile, “is always difficult to beat on any rally. To do it with two cars on their home soil… this is something we can be really proud of.”
Neuville was backed up by outgoing team-mate Ott Tänak, with some consolation for Toyota in third place as the local hero’s local hero Takamoto Katsuta brought his GR Yaris Rally1 home in third.

Japanese celebrations

For the thousands of Japanese fans who had lined the route for the first Japanese WRC round in 12 years, Katsuta’s result was reason enough to celebrate.
“I am so happy, I don’t know the right words for this,” admitted Toyota’s junior star. “To make this result at home with so many fans here – I have to say thank you to everybody in the team. I know this was a tough one for my team-mates. But for me, this is a very special result.”
Team principal Jari-Matti Latvala said Katsuta had helped ease the pain.
“Of course it’s a little bit tough,” said the Finn. “We wanted to win at home, but I cannot be too disappointed after Taka’s result. We are very proud for this and for all the Japanese fans.”

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