The TOYOTA GAZOO Racing WRC Challenge Program will continue in 2021 with Japanese driver Takamoto Katsuta set to embark on a full campaign of FIA World Rally Championship events in the Toyota Yaris WRC.
Since stepping up to the Yaris WRC for two events at the end of 2019, Katsuta has shown encouraging progress at rallying’s top level. While his 2020 schedule was shorter than anticipated due to the disruptions to the WRC calendar, the highlights included a seventh-place finish on the demanding Rallye Monte-Carlo, strong speed on Rally Estonia, and victory in the season-ending Power Stage at Rally Monza.
Next season, the plan is for Katsuta to contest all rounds currently scheduled on the WRC calendar. Dan Barritt will continue as co-driver, while experienced WRC driver Juho Hänninen will take up the role of instructor. As test driver for the TOYOTA GAZOO Racing World Rally Team, Hänninen has already worked with Katsuta before, forming part of his route-note crew and serving as his co-driver during some tests.
“This was a very difficult season for everybody and it was not easy to learn like usual, but my performance and my driving has improved since the beginning of the year. Of course, the rally results were not there but there were still some good stages, and I have a better understanding about different conditions and car setup. It’s been a good experience for me and my confidence is definitely much better than before. Thank you to the team and everyone around me who have supported me a lot. I’m very excited for next year and to be there with the Toyota Yaris WRC once again: thank you to TOYOTA GAZOO Racing for giving me this special opportunity. I will try to improve and take some good results on the rallies where I am more confident about the stages. I’m also very happy to be working closer with Juho next season: I know him very well and I have been testing with him and sitting next to him in the car. He’s obviously a very good driver, he has many years of experience and he understands the car very well. I’m sure I will become a better driver with his advice.”
Juho Hänninen (TOYOTA GAZOO Racing WRC Challenge Program instructor)
“I’m really happy to see how much Takamoto has improved this year. In the end there were not so many rallies but if you look back at, for example, the speed he showed in Estonia and then especially the last rally at Monza, I’m especially proud of how he came back in difficult conditions with really good stage times. For sure, his speed has improved a lot and next year I think it will again be much easier for him: He will be in the car more often and there are many new rallies, which will make it more equal and easier for him to compare himself against the other drivers. I’m looking forward to being with him on every rally, working with him more closely and helping him with car setup, as we did already in testing for Rallye Monte-Carlo last week. There are plenty of areas that we can work on and need to work on, but I’m confident that he can achieve some good results.”
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TOYOTA GAZOO Racing WRC Challenge Program is supported by following partners.