Neuville led home Hyundai team-mate Ott Tanak by a minute and 11 seconds in the Land of the Rising Sun to make it win number two of the season on what was the thirteenth and final round.

The Belgian came under increasing pressure early on Sunday when Toyota Gazoo Racing’s Elfyn Evans moved to within six tenths of a second of him. However, that was immediately lifted on stage 16 when Evans collected a puncture after running wide at a right-hand turn and decided to stop and change the wheel.

“This victory feels fantastic,” said Neuville, who took his win count in Hyundai colours to 18 and, in the process, consolidated third position in the Championship standings on 193 points. “It was not an easy weekend, or indeed season, but to end with this result is incredible and shows that the performance is there.

“We knew that the title chase was over, but the target was to come here to Japan to win and we have achieved that with a 1-2. It has been a challenging season; we have shown a turnaround but there is still plenty of work left to do.

“Results like this give a special boost to the whole team. We know the areas where we need to improve; I keep believing in this team and I will keep pushing also.

“Next season will be a different challenge,” he continued. “Monte [Carlo] is less than two months away and we have to be ready for that.”

Hyundai’s Deputy Team Director Julien Moncet shares Neuville’s optimism as the team’s focus now switches to the 2023 campaign with a car that has been continually worked on, and improved, as this year has unfolded.

“Despite some issues, we fought back and finished on a high in one of our most successful seasons,” said Moncet. “This win will give us the necessary positive momentum to come back even stronger in 2023. The team has now all the tools in hand to fight for Championships – our sole and only target.”

He added: “We had a difficult start to the season. Monte Carlo was quite tricky a disaster, some moments as well in Kenya, but we kept working, we kept pushing, and we never gave up. There is still a lot to do – but I think we can work well together.”

“Hopefully this positive momentum will help us move one step forward next year when we start the season again. I mean, we will have a bit of rest next week, but we are working on developments for next and one day soon Monte Carlo will come, so we will not have too much time to rest.”