TOYOTA GAZOO Racing Rally Challenge Program driver Takamoto Katsuta enjoyed a positive start to his eight-round 2020 campaign at the highest level of the FIA World Rally Championship with a seventh-place finish on Rallye Monte-Carlo: the best result of his career so far.
Rallye Monte-Carlo is the oldest and most famous event on the WRC calendar, and notorious for the unpredictable weather conditions often experienced at this time of year in the French Alps. This year, temperatures were relatively mild compared to usual, but there were still some sections of ice and snow as well as rain and mud on the asphalt roads.
After completing the full event on his Monte debut one year ago in R5 machinery, Katsuta put that experience into use for his third world championship start in the Toyota Yaris WRC. With the conditions changing rapidly, Katsuta and experienced co-driver Daniel Barritt relied on their ice-note crew of Juho Hänninen and Craig Parry to provide the latest information.
Katsuta began with the aim of completing the tricky event to gather more vital experience and trying to avoid mistakes. This approach already brought him up to seventh overall on the first full day of stages on Friday. On Saturday morning’s first stage he slid wide into a snow bank and lost over three minutes stopping to clear snow from the radiator. In the afternoon however, Katsuta improved his pace and set competitive times among the other World Rally Car drivers. He carried that form into the final day on Sunday, even though he was avoiding major risks in order to get to the finish.
“I’m so happy to have reached the end of the rally with lots of experience. I can see that I made a lot of progress from the start to the end of the weekend. I learned a lot about how to drive in different conditions and with different tyre options. I’m also getting more understanding about the car. On Saturday morning the conditions were very difficult and I made a mistake, but after that I could reset my mind and I had a pretty good feeling. My times at the end were pretty fine compared to other drivers who’ve done the same stages many times. Thank you to my co-driver Dan, my gravel crew Juho and Craig and the whole team – they did a brilliant job.”
Jarkko Miettinen (TOYOTA GAZOO Racing Rally Challenge Program instructor):
“I am very pleased that Taka and Dan finished their Rallye Monte-Carlo with the Yaris WRC. The target was to finish rally to get experience, so Taka took it pretty carefully when conditions were mixed and difficult. I know how much patience this requires, as a driver always likes to show on every stage how fast he can drive. When the road was drier, Taka showed pretty good speed and especially during the whole Sunday loop he was good driving on a high level.”
1 Thierry Neuville/Nicolas Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC) 3h10m57.6s
2 Sébastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia (Toyota Yaris WRC) +12.6s
3 Elfyn Evans/Scott Martin (Toyota Yaris WRC) +14.3s
4 Esapekka Lappi/Janne Ferm (Ford Fiesta WRC) +3m09.0s
5 Kalle Rovanperä/Jonne Halttunen (Toyota Yaris WRC) +4m17.2s
6 Sébastien Loeb/Daniel Elena (Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC) +5m04.7s
7 Takamoto Katsuta/Daniel Barritt (Toyota Yaris WRC) +11m27.9s
Rally Sweden is the WRC’s only full winter event, held on snow and ice since it became a founding round of the world championship in 1973. Katsuta has strong previous form on the event, taking an impressive WRC2 class victory in 2018.