“That's incredible. That was a terrible rally. It was big, big pressure since the start and it couldn't have been more tricky than it was. But now it's a great moment. There is no pressure now, it's perfect. I'm relieved, it's a big, big relief. We equalled the record last year, now we've beaten it and we are the only ones,” said the Citroen driver after Sunday's last stage.
With Loeb only needing 3rd place to secure the 2008 title, all Mikko Hirvonen had to try is win the Japanese event and hope for a miracle further in the back. The Ford drivers didn't leave anything at chance and, except for Jari-Matti Latvala closing the gap on his teammate to only 5 seconds at the beginning of Day 3, everything worked as planned.
Malcolm Wilson's drivers finished the rally in first and second overall, while Loeb didn't repeat the same mistake as last year and ended the event on a comfortable 3rd place, one minute and 12 seconds ahead of nearest rival Chris Atkinson.
“Everybody can see he won 10 rallies so he definitely deserved it this year. I'll just have to try again next year,” admitted Hirvonen at the end of the day. Ford seems to have lost both battles this season – drivers and manufacturers – as Wilson's team has to make up for an 11-point deficit with a single event left to run in 2008. Considering Rally Great Britain will be ran on asphalt, where Loeb is still to lose a rally this season, there's little chance of a championship switch in the manufacturers standings following the late-November event.
With a 5th world title already secured, Sebastien Loeb confirmed he will be testing a Formula 1 car – for Red Bull Racing – at Barcelona later this month. Also, after Rally Great Britain in late November, he will be attending another Race of Champions event at Wembley Stadium.