Sebastien Loeb says he will try to put a possible seventh World Rally Championship out of his mind when he starts the Sapporo-based event this evening.
The Citroen-driving Frenchman needs to win the event and have his closest rivals finish sixth or lower to continue a winning streak which stretches back to 2004.
"I know what I have to do," said Loeb. "Everybody is talking about that and, for sure, I know it's possible, but I am trying not to think about that. I want to do a good rally here, but we don't need to win. It's points that are important."
Despite talking down his desire to collect his 60th career win in Japan, Loeb says he will be pushing hard from the start. "If you start to back off at the start of the rally, you can lose a lot of time," he added Last time [in Japan] I lost more than 40 seconds in some stages compared to Jari-Matti [Latvala] so you have to be aggressive enough to be fast."
Loeb's closest rival in the championship is fellow C4 driver Sebastien Ogier and Loeb is aware of the threat the younger of the two Frenchman poses – he has beaten Loeb on the last three gravel rallies in the WRC.
"He [Ogier] can fight with me," said Loeb. "It's what we saw in the last rallies. We'll see how it goes here, he's here for the first time, but it's some other rallies where he has been for the first time and he was very fast. We'll see."
Rally Japan got under way with two runs around the superspecial stage in the Sapporo Dome.