TOYOTA GAZOO Racing Rally Challenge Program driver Takamoto Katsuta made a commendable debut at the sport’s highest level on Rallye Deutschland, learning huge amounts in addition claiming a points finish from his first FIA World Rally Championship event in a Toyota Yaris WRC.
This was not only Katsuta’s first time competing in the top category of the WRC, but also his first rally in the Toyota Yaris WRC on asphalt and his first ever appearance on Rallye Deutschland in any category. The German event is considered to be especially tricky because of its mix of different types of asphalt stage, with the combination of twisting vineyard roads, the fearsome Baumholder military range and fast country lanes providing Katsuta and co-driver Daniel Barritt with a considerable challenge.
Katsuta impressed throughout the weekend with his approach, with his focus on learning about the car and the stages rather than on chasing the fastest stage times. Despite the many potential pitfalls on the demanding stages, Katsuta avoided making any major mistakes and completed every stage, building his pace and gaining valuable experience. His reward was 10th place overall and his maiden overall WRC point: he was ninth on Saturday afternoon before he had to stop and change a flat tyre on the notoriously rough Panzerplatte roads.
“It was a very tough weekend, everything was a very new experience for me. So it was not easy, especially in the beginning when I was too nervous. But we finished the rally and this was our only target this weekend. I followed the strategy and didn’t push too hard, but even if you’re not pushing, it’s difficult to know how a World Rally Car will behave with the difficult conditions and stages we had here in Germany. The surface was changing so much and it was very difficult to know how the grip level would be. But I learned a lot about that over the weekend and improved my confidence. I’m very happy about the improvements to my driving and to our pace-notes. I want to thank the team for supporting me, as well as my gravel crew, Jarkko Nikara and Mikko Markkula, as they did an incredible job to help me.”
Jarkko Miettinen (TOYOTA GAZOO Racing Rally Challenge Program instructor):
“I am really happy for Taka and Dan’s result in Germany. It is a very specialised rally and it was a big challenge for Taka to do it for the first time with a WRC car. The crew followed their target well and the speed increased from Friday by over one second per kilometre without raising the risk level. I know that Taka has more potential with the Yaris, but now was not the time to try this. We will go through this new experience and work hard to develop more.”
Tommi Mäkinen (TOYOTA GAZOO Racing Rally Challenge Program supervisor):
“Takamoto was very good this weekend. His driving was very wise. Sometimes he was a little bit slower, but he showed many times that he can be less one second a kilometre slower than the most experienced drivers – despite it being his first time here in Germany and his first time in a World Rally Car on asphalt, on the most difficult asphalt event. He wasn’t trying to follow what the other drivers were doing, just concentrating on his own rally. He only made a few tiny mistakes, which is very natural. I’m sure he learned more this weekend than on any other, and that he has a lot more experience to use on his next time in this car in Spain.”
1 Ott Tänak/Martin Järveoja (Toyota Yaris WRC) 3h15m29.8s
2 Kris Meeke/Seb Marshall (Toyota Yaris WRC) +20.8s
3 Jari-Matti Latvala/Miikka Anttila (Toyota Yaris WRC) +36.0s
4 Thierry Neuville/Nicolas Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC) +58.5s
5 Dani Sordo/Carlos del Barrio (Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC) +1m16.6s
10 Takamoto Katsuta/Daniel Barritt (Toyota Yaris WRC) +8m19.2s
Before his next outing in the Toyota Yaris WRC on Rally de España, Katsuta will return to the WRC 2 class to contest Rally GB (October 3-6) for the first time. The event takes place on gravel roads in the Welsh forests, which can be fast in the dry but are often muddy and slippery.
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