TOYOTA GAZOO Racing Rally Challenge drivers Takamoto Katsuta and Hiroki Arai took part in their final event of the season last weekend: Rally de España. Mistakes from both drivers on the first morning of the FIA World Rally Championship round denied them strong results in the WRC2 class: Katsuta restarted after a crash to gain useful experience, while Arai had shown good speed before a roll ended his event early.
Rally de España is the only mixed-surface event in the WRC calendar, with the first day contested on loose gravel stages before the cars are changed to asphalt specification on Friday night ready for two days on asphalt stages that are similar to a racing circuit: smooth, flowing and fast.
Katsuta, co-driven by Marko Salminen, encountered difficulty on the first stage of the event when he took too much speed into a corner and hit a barrier, damaging a steering arm on his Ford Fiesta R5. Although they managed to repair the steering arm, a power steering issue forced them to retire for the day. They restarted on Saturday morning and were able to complete the remaining two days of asphalt stages.
Arai and co-driver Glenn Macneall made an impressive start to the rally with the third-fastest times among the WRC2 drivers in both of the opening two stages. Unfortunately Arai then rolled his Fiesta R5 on the third stage on Friday after misunderstanding a pace-note. Both driver and co-driver were OK but were unable to continue.
“In the middle of the first stage I hit a barrier and broke a steering arm. We fixed it but then we lost the power steering as well so we came back to service. It was a slippery corner. The pace-note was OK, already I had it down as ‘double caution’, but we were carrying a bit too much speed and I couldn’t slow down. When I restarted on Saturday I knew I needed to finish this rally to gain experience for the future because I didn’t have any experience on this rally, or on asphalt with an R5 car. So I just focused on completing each stage without any mistakes. It was not so exciting to drive without pushing, but the stages were very nice so I enjoyed it. It’s very good for us to have finished this rally. We have learnt a lot.”
“On stage three there were two corners close together that were quite similar in my pace-notes: a ‘short right’ and a ‘four right’. I mixed them up and took too much speed into the corner. We hit the bank and rolled the car. It was unfortunate as it was a very small misunderstanding. Before this I was surprised how good our speed was compared to the other drivers, who have done this rally before. I can see the progress we have made because it wasn’t possible before for me to get this kind of speed immediately from the first stage of a rally.”
Jouni Ampuja (TOYOTA GAZOO Racing Rally Challenge Program instructor)
“This weekend was not what we had hoped for. It just shows that although we are doing things well in some areas, for the drivers to handle the pressure they face here at the highest level is something that is still to be learned. To make mistakes so early in the rally never makes things easy. Even though were some good stage times for Arai, it ended so early. We didn’t get any real feedback from this rally, because when Katsuta restarted he had a lot of pressure to get to the finish, which wasn’t natural for him. The season as a whole has been really good, however. The calendar we made worked well and of course huge work has been put into it, especially by the drivers. It’s nice to see the progress and there are good moments and hard moments and we need to learn from all of them.”
1 Teemu Suninen/Mikko Markkula (Ford Fiesta R5) 3h09m43.8s
2 Jan Kopecky/Pavel Dresler (Skoda Fabia R5) +31.8s
3 Benito Guerra/Daniel Cue (Skoda Fabia R5) +4m38.9s
4 Juuso Nordgen/Tapio Suominen (Skoda Fabia R5) +5m15.7s
5 Simone Tempestini/Giovanni Bernacchini (Citroën DS3 R5) +5m17.8s
14 Takamoto Katsuta/Marko Salminen(Ford Fiesta R5) +1h8m50.4s
Retired Hiroki Arai/Glenn Macneal (Ford Fiesta R5)