While Sébastien Ogier rightly took the plaudits for his record-breaking Rallye Monte-Carlo victory, Toyota Yaris team-mate Takamoto Katsuta left the French Alps having bagged sixth place in the FIA World Rally Championship’s season opener.
Next stop is the snow and ice-covered tracks of northern Finland and nobody in the WRC’s top tier has more knowhow of the Rovaniemi roads than the 27-year-old Japanese driver.
Finland has become his home since he first began competing in the Nordic country in 2015 under the auspices of former Toyota Gazoo Racing team principal Tommi Mäkinen.
Since then he has been steered through Toyota’s driver development programme to the sport’s top level, during which time he has competed in Arctic Rally Lapland, the WRC fixture’s sister event, on three occasions. Third is his best result there in 2018.
Video: Arctic Rally Finland
Katsuta’s coach, former Toyota works driver Juho Hänninen, has competed at Arctic Rally Lapland five times and won last month’s encounter. He sees Katstua’s Monte-Carlo result as a springboard for his first full WRC campaign.
“I’m really happy with how Taka did. He started the rally with no experience on the asphalt tyres at all – as our test in December was in full winter conditions when he drove with studded winter tyres – so it was really difficult for him on the first day,” he explained.
“But when the conditions changed and he put the winter tyres on, he was much more confident and the stage times were straight away much better.
“This was a really good start to the season and it will be easier to go from here to the Arctic Rally Finland with this confidence.”