Katsuta ready for fuller WRC attack
Japan’s hopes of landing a first World Rally Championship winner in 27 years have taken a step forward with news that Takamoto Katsuta will contest all-but one round of this year’s WRC.
The 25-year-old Toyota Gazoo Racing Rally Challenge Program driver will remain in a Ford Fiesta R5 for all WRC rounds except the season-closing Rally Australia. In addition, he will compete on two Finnish Rally Championship rounds – the SM Itaralli (snow, March) and SM Riihimaki ralli (gravel, May) – in a Toyota Yaris WRC.
Briton Dan Barritt will return to Toyota Gazoo to co-driver Katsuta. The pair last worked together in 2016.
Katsuta said: “The Rally Challenge Program has been strengthened, and so an even more rigorous world awaits me. I am determined to push myself to the limit, and I am confident that I will be able to grow significantly.”
Programme supervisor Tommi Makinen said he had been impressed with Katsuta over the last three years, adding that his focus is now on the step up to a World Rally Car. Makinen said: “The targets for the coming season are for Katsuta to understand the importance of consistency and balanced work in long WRC events, build confidence, learn to deal with the pressure.”
Kenjiro Shinozuka was the last Japanese driver to win a WRC round, when he took back-to-back wins at the Ivory Coast Rally with Mitsubishi in 1991-92.
Katsuta turned heads with his 2018 R5 performances