The TOYOTA GAZOO Racing Rally Challenge Program takes another significant step in 2020, with Japanese driver Takamoto Katsuta set to drive a Toyota Yaris WRC on eight FIA World Rally Championship events.
Katsuta began 2019 by contesting seven WRC rounds in with an R5-specification car – winning the WRC2 class on Rally Chile – alongside two victories from his two initial starts in the Yaris WRC in the Finnish championship. Given the strong progress shown, his programme for the second half of the season was revised accordingly, and he stepped up to the top category of the WRC with a Yaris WRC for Rallye Deutschland and Rally de España. This represented a significant achievement for the program, which set out to develop a Japanese WRC driver.
With Katsuta having met his objectives by gaining crucial experience and demonstrating improvement through both events, another milestone is set to follow. Next season he will tackle an expanded schedule at rallying’s top level, starting all seven European rallies as well as his home event, Rally Japan. He will continue to be guided by experienced co-driver Dan Barritt.
Tommi Mäkinen (TOYOTA GAZOO Racing Rally Challenge Program supervisor):
“Takamoto has already gained some experience driving the Yaris WRC this year, and just this week he did the final day of our test to prepare for Rallye Monte Carlo, so he’s becoming more knowledgeable about the car and gaining a better understanding of how a World Rally Car behaves, compared to what he’s driven before. In Spain we had already seen him set some good stage times, especially on his second time through the stages. Now he just needs more experience, which will help him to improve his consistency. I’m very confident that he will show good things throughout his programme of events in 2020.”
Jarkko Miettinen (TOYOTA GAZOO Racing Rally Challenge Program instructor):
“I expect Taka and Dan to continue developing constantly during our 2020 programme. They already made big steps in 2019 with their speed in the Yaris in the two WRC events they did. Having said that, improving their stage times now gets harder and harder as the margins at the top level are so small. In our calendar for next season there are some familiar events where Taka can push more, and some events that will have to be taken purely for learning more about the Yaris and the conditions. We will focus our training on all the small details that can be made better to keep learning more and to reach the top level in this demanding sport.”
“I must say thank you very much to TOYOTA GAZOO Racing and Tommi Mäkinen Racing for giving me this amazing opportunity. 2020 will be a new challenge for me. I have good experience of each event from this year, but to be able to compete at the top level in a World Rally Car is a big step up. Although my first events in the Yaris WRC this year were very positive, I know that I still need to improve my driving and my pace-notes to reach a higher level. I’m really motivated to do that and I’m looking forward to seeing how much progress I can make next year. I hope that I can show a good step between the beginning and the end of the season, and I’m really excited for it to start.”