The TOYOTA GAZOO Racing Rally Challenge Program completed its 2018 season with a strong performance on the Enset Ralli in Finland. Young Japanese driver Takamoto Katsuta finished on the podium in third overall, while Japanese co-driver Sayaka Adachi scored a second-place finish in her class alongside Jarkko Nikara. Hiroki Arai also showed promising speed with good stage times, even though two separate delays denied him a positive overall result.
Based in Sastamala in western Finland, the Enset Ralli was the sixth round of the Finnish Rally Championship (FRC). The stages were similar in nature to Rally Finland, the most recent event for the Rally Challenge Program crews, with challenging, high-speed gravel roads. While Katsuta and Arai continued in their Ford Fiesta R5s, Adachi and Nikara were back in the SM2-class Subaru Impreza they have campaigned in the FRC this year.
Katsuta and co-driver Marko Salminen lost time on the very first stage due to an issue with the pop-off valve, which reduced the available power from their engine. They showed strong speed thereafter however, winning one stage and climbing the leaderboard to claim third position overall on the final stage.
Nikara and Adachi were involved in a very close fight for the SM2 class victory. They improved their speed throughout the rally, moving into the lead on the penultimate stage and ultimately ending the rally with exactly the same overall time as their rivals, classified second based on the results of the first driven stage.
Arai, navigated by Jarmo Lehtinen, made a positive start to the rally, finishing the first stage just 1.5 seconds slower than the winner. He then suffered a puncture on the second stage, forcing him to stop to change the tyre, before he went off the road in the following test. While he finished 18th overall, six minutes down, Arai ended the rally well with competitive stage times during the afternoon.
“I am feeling very happy with this result. To have fought back to third after the problem with the pop-off valve on the first stage is very pleasing. It was a very difficult rally with changing conditions but the car was working very well and we could set the fastest time on one stage and be very close on a few others. I can still improve my driving though, as my target was to win and I made a few mistakes, so I will keep working hard. Thank you to Marko and the whole team, they did a great job.”
“I was so disappointed to get the puncture. There was a stone on the line and I couldn’t avoid it. After that I wasn’t concentrating enough in the next stage, and we had a half-roll into a ditch and needed the spectators to help us back onto the road. Following that I had to calm down, and in the last loop of stages I think we got back to a similar feeling as we had at the start. I wasn’t taking any risks but we could still set some competitive times, which is positive. We learnt a lot and the pace-notes and driving style were much better than on Rally Finland.”
“It was a nice rally, even though the result was a little bit disappointing. This was our third fight with Henrik Pietarinen and Juha Lummaa in Finland: It has always been a very close battle and I enjoyed competing with them. It was really exciting. I think my pace-note reading was getting better. After Rally Finland we went back to the Subaru and I was a little nervous that the feeling would be different, but I was able to read the notes calmly. I am very happy to have been able to compete with Jarkko for the last two years. Thank you to him and the whole team.”
“It was a very tough fight with Henrik and Juha again. In the morning they pushed immediately, while for me it took a little bit of time to get in the rhythm after going back to the Subaru for this rally. Then in the afternoon I pushed to the maximum all the time and we caught them. We ended up with exactly the same time and it was really nice to fight like that. Sayaka was reading the pace-notes really well which gave me the confidence to drive.”
Jouni Ampuja (TOYOTA GAZOO Racing Rally Challenge Program instructor)
“This was a positive end to the season. Takamoto did a brilliant job to get third overall after the issue on the first stage. For Hiroki, the puncture was naturally a big disappointment and he lost concentration and went off, but the afternoon was better when he regained focus. With Sayaka, it was a good day. Jarkko was satisfied and he was driving well, with the same total time as the winner. Sayaka can compete on the top level in the Finnish championship and that’s nice to see. The reason we wanted to come here at the end of the year was to measure the progress against the leaders: it showed the direction is correct and we are satisfied with that.”
1 Eerik Pietarinen/Juhana Raitanen (Skoda Fabia R5) 45m48.4s
2 Emil Lindholm/Mikael Korhonen (Skoda Fabia R5) +14.4s
3 Takamoto Katsuta/Marko Salminen (Ford Fiesta R5) +16.8s
4 Nikolay Gryazin/Yaroslav Fedorov (Skoda Fabia R5) +25.1s
5 Kristian Kiviniemi/Matti Kangas (Skoda Fabia R5) +28.9s
8 Jarkko Nikara/Sayaka Adachi (Subaru Impreza WRX STI) +55.5s
18 Hiroki Arai/Jarmo Lehtinen (Ford Fiesta R5) +6m01.4s
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