Katsuta heads Japan warm-up field
Central Rally Aichi is rehearsal for Japan’s 2020 WRC return
Katsuta, co-driven by Britain’s Dan Barritt aboard a Yaris WRC, finished the all-asphalt event almost four minutes ahead of closest rival Hiroki Arai.
Run on some of the roads which will feature in Japan’s first WRC round since 2010, Central Rally Aichi proved a huge hit with local fans – many of whom had turned out to see Katsuta driving a World Rally Car at home for the first time.
“It was incredible to see so many people,” he said. “On one short stage we had around 30,000 fans watching, amazing. It was really nice to drive the car and show the people what these cars can do.
“The fans in Japan can’t always imagine so easily what these cars are like. When they see them competing on the roads in Europe or somewhere else, they see them driving, but they don’t know what the roads are really like. Here they can imagine and I think they have been very surprised at how fast these cars are.”
Katsuta admitted the Aichi roads would provide a real test for the main WRC field which will be in Japan in one year’s time.
“They say that Corsica has 10,000 corners,” smiled Katsuta, “I think this rally might have some more!
“When the stages go into the forests, the roads are really technical and quite narrow and all the time it’s another corner. In some places, we are using only first and second gear – sometimes third, but never fourth. It will be a big challenge.
“Another challenge is for the surface. It’s quite smooth, but there is moss in the middle of the road. Even though it was sunny and nice weather all week, the surface is slippery, really slippery when you are on this moss.
“The temperature under the trees doesn’t get so warm, so there was always some moisture under there. There was two-track for the normal cars, but the problem for us is that the Yaris WRC is a little bit wider – it made it very interesting!” he added.
The rally was used to train organisers and marshals, and representatives from WRC teams attended en route to Kennards Hire Rally Australia to make inspections ahead of next year’s event.