TOYOTA GAZOO Racing Rally Challenge Program driver Takamoto Katsuta continued his learning process on Rally Sweden, which proved to be much more demanding for the young Japanese driver than when he claimed his maiden WRC2 victory on the same event in 2018. In difficult mixed conditions, Katsuta was on course to finish eighth in the class until retiring on the final stage with damage.
Rally Sweden is the only full winter rally on the FIA World Rally Championship calendar, where special studded tyres are used to provide grip on the ice and snow. However, this year’s event featured warmer-than-usual temperatures, creating a mixture of different surfaces with ice, slush and gravel, while softer snowbanks at the sides of the road also presented a hazard to the drivers.
Katsuta, co-driven by Dan Barritt, was inside the top six in WRC2 in his Ford Fiesta R5 on the opening morning of the rally before he hit a snowbank, losing some positions. Further ground was lost on Saturday morning when they had a spin and had to stop to clear snow from the car’s radiator. On Sunday, Katsuta posted the third-best time in WRC2 on the penultimate stage of the rally, before being forced to retire when he hit a rock that had been exposed from under the snow.
“It has been a difficult weekend for us. We have had very mixed conditions on many of the stages, with snow, slush, gravel and mud. I have never faced these kind of conditions before, and I couldn’t have any confidence. It was very difficult to drive and we had a few moments. I was still trying to push but after we lost time on Saturday clearing snow from the radiator, I changed my mindset: I accepted my position and tried to drive a little bit safer and to get a better rhythm. On Sunday morning we had proper winter conditions which were very nice to drive, and we set a good time. On the last stage I was going carefully, but I hit a big rock on the inside of a corner that wasn’t in my pacenotes. I am quite disappointed, but at the same time I have done almost all of the stages, and on ice the speed was there. I need to improve in mixed conditions, but I have learned a lot this weekend and the experience will help me in the future.”
Jarkko Miettinen (TOYOTA GAZOO Racing Rally Challenge Program instructor)
“The conditions this weekend were really tricky even for very experienced drivers, but Taka still managed to drive well and fight for good positions. He was consistent in most of the stages, and I am pleased that he could control his mindset and adapt after his situation changed on Saturday. In this sense, Taka followed our target well this weekend by reacting to the challenges he faced. I am sure that this experience will pay off later this year.”
1 Ole Christian Veiby/Jonas Andersson (Volkswagen Polo R5) 2h54m04.0s
2 Emil Lindholm/Mikael Korhonen (Volkswagen Polo R5) +2m03.5s
3 Johan Kristoffersson/Stig-Rune Skjærmoen (Volkswagen Polo R5) +2m19.6s
4 Emil Bergkvist/Patrik Barth (Ford Fiesta R5) +2m28.8s
5 Nikolay Gryazin/Yaroslav Federov (Skoda Fabia R5) +3m04.4s
Retired Takamoto Katsuta/Daniel Barritt (Ford Fiesta R5)
Katsuta will take part in his first rally behind the wheel of the Toyota Yaris WRC on the Itäralli: a round of the Finnish Rally Championship held on ice and snow in Joensuu in Eastern Finland on March 2. His next WRC outing with the Fiesta R5 will be on the French island of Corsica on March 28-31.
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TOYOTA GAZOO Racing Rally Challenge Program is supported by Otsuka Pharmaceutical.