Katsuta earns Toyoda plaudits

Toyota’s global boss believes Takamoto Katsuta’s shock WRC 2 victory at Rally Sweden brought his dream of an all-Japanese line-up at the WRC’s top level closer.

Akio Toyoda, president of Toyota Motor Corporation, led the manufacturer back into the WRC last season after almost two decades away. He also invested in a development programme to take a young Japanese driver to the top.

Katsuta’s remarkable win over reigning WRC 2 champion Pontus Tidemand on the Swede’s home roads was the biggest indicator yet that Toyoda’s vision could become reality.

The 24-year-old held off Tidemand’s late charge to win by 4.5sec, prompting a delighted Toyoda to send his congratulations.

“When Toyota decided to come back to WRC after 17 years, the first picture in my head was of a Toyota car running on WRC stages, and the next picture I had was of a Japanese driver and co-driver in the car,” he said.

“This was because if this became reality, I believed there would be more rally fans in Japan who understand how wonderful this sport and its culture are. That’s why we started the Toyota Gazoo Racing Rally Challenge Programme to support young drivers to progress to an international level.

“It’s been two-and-a-half years since they started their challenge and it’s a really great job that Katsuta has achieved. He showed the possibility of my dream of a Japanese driver in a Japanese car in the WRC.”

Team-mate Hiroki Arai finished seventh in WRC 2 after mechanical problems while co-driver Sayaka Adachi partnered the experienced Jarkko Nikara on her second WRC outing.

“I think there are more people now sharing the same dream as me thanks to these three who really showed their talents and potential. I hope they encourage each other and continue to improve more and more to make their and our dreams come true,” added Toyoda.

The programme is run in Finland by Tommi Mäkinen Racing and the four-time world champion was overjoyed with Katsuta’s performance.

“The result achieved in Sweden by Takamoto is absolutely fantastic. Everybody is very surprised with how well he handled the pressure of leading the event. He was up against some very quick drivers who were very experienced in these conditions.

“This result should be very good for his confidence. Now he knows how it feels and he can keep going this way. It’s very promising for his future,” he said.


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