Wednesday | 20 Jul 2016

Tough training for Toyota's youngsters

Toyota development drivers Takamoto Katsuta and Hiroki Arai will make their WRC debuts at the upcoming Neste Rally Finland (28 - 31 July) after an incident-packed preparation event in Estonia last weekend.

The young Japanese pair are being nurtured by Tommi Mäkinen Racing in Finland under the Toyota Gazoo Racing Challenge Program and have tackled four rounds of the Finnish championship so far this year, latterly in Ford Fiesta R5s.

And as they prepare to tackle Finland's WRC round, their training took them to Rally Estonia, which has a similar character, length and structure to the Finnish event. It was the pair's first experience of a full-length, three-day European rally and their first time making pacenotes from start to finish.

Alongside British co-driver Daniel Barritt, 23-year-old Katsuta’s rally was cut short on Saturday's third stage when he entered a junction too fast and rolled. He restarted the next day but went off again. “It was hard for me to evaluate the right places to brake due to the high speed on these roads”, said Katsuta, who later described it as "the worst weekend of my life".

At first, things were looking brighter for Arai, 22, [above] who is co-driven by his father Toshi's former co-driver Glenn Macneall. Arai was seventh until he slid wide on a fast right-hander in Stage 6 and slammed into ditch which sent his Fiesta barrel-rolling down the stage [see video below].

"The negative things must be accepted as part of the sport and we must be able to learn from them”, said the programme's chief instructor, Jouni Ampuja.

Both drivers will receive extra training in pacenotes-making as well as a pre-event test to get a feel for the gravel roads of central Finland before the WRC event kicks off.

They will drive Ford Fiesta R5 cars in the RC2 class and will go head-to-head against leading WRC 2 contenders such as Esapekka Lappi, Elfyn Evans and Teemu Suninen.

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