TOYOTA GAZOO Racing WRC Challenge Program driver Takamoto Katsuta gained more new experiences on another demanding event as he finished Rally Sweden in ninth place overall.
Sweden is usually known as the FIA World Rally Championship’s only event held
in full winter conditions. However, there were mild temperatures and a lack of
snow in the region in the build-up to the event, leading to a reduced itinerary
and challenging conditions on the stages. As usual on Rally Sweden, drivers
would use special studded tyres, but the lack of snow and ice coating the
gravel stages would make preserving those studs a major challenge.
While Katsuta has strong experience and results on snow rallies – he took his first WRC 2 win on Rally Sweden in 2018 and made his debut in the Toyota Yaris on the Itäralli in Finland almost one year ago – the specific conditions of this year’s event were a step into the unknown.
While two pre-event shakedowns on Thursday were held on dry gravel surfaces, Friday’s opening loop of four stages were held in more wintery conditions, with temperatures well below freezing. Ninth after an error-free run through the first day, Katsuta would then run first on the road on Saturday. This featured the same four stages but with different conditions, with warmer temperatures but some sections with fresh snow that put Katsuta at a disadvantage with his road position. Nonetheless, he improved his confidence and his performance, and reached the end of the rally without incident.
“It was a very tricky rally, not like a normal Rally Sweden with not so much ice and snow, and the conditions were changing a lot. Between day one and day two the conditions changed quite a lot, but I was able to feel more comfortable in the car and the times were much better than on the first day, even though we were the first car on the road. I’m getting better and getting closer to the top guys. I’m in a good team with very good drivers and I can look at the data and see where I’m losing time and where I can improve. I learned quite a lot and found a lot of things I can improve for the future.”
Jarkko Miettinen (TOYOTA GAZOO Racing WRC Challenge Program instructor):
“In Sweden our target for Taka was for him to increase his speed and drive as fast as possible. The challenging conditions made it more difficult for Taka to show his talent on fast and snowy roads. However, Taka and Dan performed better than ever in the top WRC class and their gap to the best drivers in the world was well under a second per kilometre. This event showed that Taka will develop to top level with continuous hard work.”
|1||Elfyn Evans/Scott Martin (Toyota Yaris WRC)||1h11m43.1s|
|2||Ott Tänak/Martin Järveoja (Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC)||+12.7s|
|3||Kalle Rovanperä/Jonne Halttunen (Toyota Yaris WRC)||+20.2s|
|4||Sébastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia (Toyota Yaris WRC)||+23.6s|
|5||Esapekka Lappi/Janne Ferm (Ford Fiesta WRC)||+32.4s|
|9||Takamoto Katsuta/Daniel Barritt (Toyota Yaris WRC)||+1m59.6s|
The next event in Katsuta’s eight-round WRC programme for 2020 will be the Rally de Portugal (May 21-24). The rally is held on sandy and rocky gravel roads around Porto.