Japanese youngster Takamoto Katsuta will drive a Toyota Yaris on eight FIA World Rally Championship events next year.
Katsuta, who has been nurtured by Tommi Mäkinen via the Toyota Gazoo Racing Rally Challenge Program, will compete on all seven European rounds of the series, as well as the returning Rally Japan, which closes the 2020 season.
The 26-year-old made his championship World Rally Car debut in Germany in August after contesting eight rounds in a Ford Fiesta R5, winning WRC 2 in Chile. A second Yaris outing in Spain was indicative of Toyota’s satisfaction with Katsuta’s progress.
He is expected to be entered by Tommi Mäkinen Racing as part of the Japanese squad’s second team. The FIA gave the green light earlier this month for manufacturers to enter an additional single-car scoring team under a separate name.
Katsuta, who will continue to be partnered by experienced British co-driver Dan Barritt, said: “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 that 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 that I can show a good step between the beginning and the end of the season, and I’m really excited for it to start.”
Mäkinen is confident Katsuta will make the next step in the programme’s target of unearthing a leading Japanese driver at the highest level.
“Just this week he did the final day of our test to prepare for Rallye 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,” he said.