The Toyota GAZOO Racing team has announced this Friday that Japanese racer Takamoto Katsuta will drive for them in eight appointments of the World Rally Championship (WRC) 2020. The 26-year-old rally driver will take the wheel of the Yaris WRC in all seven European races as well as in Japan. He has already taken part in these events in previous years, either with the Yaris or with a Ford Fiesta R5 in the WRC2 category.
As the fourth and support driver for the team, which also includes Sébastien Ogier, Elfyn Evans and Kalle Rovanperä, his main objective will be to accrue as many points as possible towards the drivers’ title. His personal challenge, however, will be to demonstrate that he is worthy of the seat that has been temporarily granted to him.
Montecarlo & Sweden, the first tests for Katsuta
The first race for Takamoto Katsuta will be the Rally of Monte Carlo (January 23rd-26th), inaugural race of the 2020 calendar. Only three weeks later (February 13th-16th) he will star in Rally Sweden. By the way, if finally, Finn Jari-Matti Latvala decides to take part in the Nordic race, weather privately or semi-officially, five Yaris WRC models would be registered on the same appointment.
After those two initial races, Takamoto Katsuta will complete the Old Continent leg of the championship in Portugal, Sardinia, Finland, Germany and Wales. Finally, Katsuta will say goodbye to the season before his countrymen at the Rally of Japan. Initially, that will be all for the son of Japanese champion Norihiko Katsuta, who will not compete in the Australian Rally.
Despite Takamoto Katsuta’s intense scheduled for the WRC 2020, he still hasn’t ruled out some extra competitions onboard an R5, whether those would be done inside or outside of the WRC, it is also unknown. His greatest professional jump happened last season at the wheel of the eastern rocket during several of his first races both inside and outside the World Cup.
Within the WRC he participated in the rallies of Germany and Spain, where his performance caught the attention of Toyota officials. After having demonstrated a great progression at the ‘Racing Rally Challenge Program’ with an R5, the Japanese driver has carved himself a place at the top category in the structure led by Tommy Mäkinen.
Katsuta and Mäkinen’s thoughts
After the news was released, Takamoto Katsuta had the following to say: “I must say thank you very much to Toyota Gazoo Racing and Tommi Makinen Racing for giving me this amazing opportunity. There is no doubt 2020 will pose 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 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 I can show a good step between the beginning and the end of the season”.
Meanwhile, Tommi Mäkinen, team principal at Toyota WRT, has said the following regarding his new recruit: “Takamoto has already gained some experience driving the Yaris WRC this year (2019) and just this week he did the final day of our test to prepare for 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″, concluded Takamoto Katsuta.
Images of ‘Takamoto Katsuta’: Toyota.