Toyota Gazoo Racing team principal Tommi Mäkinen is keen to follow the progress of WRC 2 frontrunner Takamoto Katsuta’s gravel road debut in a Yaris World Rally Car on Saturday.
Katsuta was selected ahead of fellow Japanese driver Hiroki Arai from the Toyota Gazoo Racing Rally Challenge Program last year and competed in a Yaris for the first time when he won Finland’s snow-based Itaralli in March.
As well as a comprehensive programme of WRC 2 events, Katsuta is testing Toyota’s World Rally Car and competing on selected Finnish Championship rounds.
On Saturday, the 26-year-old gets to compete on gravel for the first time at Finland’s Riihimäki Rally, and he goes there fresh from WRC 2 victory at Copec Rally Chile earlier this month.
“He will test (the Yaris) before the rally,” said Mäkinen, “but it’s still for them to learn. This is the first time on gravel, so it will be interesting to follow his progress. We are trying a lot to raise his experience by running the WRC 2 programme alongside his time in the Yaris.
“He did well in Chile, good experience from very difficult conditions and so tricky having only two passes at these new stages. I think he took confidence from that win.”
Katsuta’s British co-driver, Dan Barritt, agrees with Mäkinen, adding: “The result in the snow in March was a good one. He drove very, very well in some tricky conditions. The snow was really coming down that day and we were like a proper snowplough.
“But now we’re going to the gravel, which is great. His confidence is really coming. Chile was good for us, that was a tough one as well with so many surface and grip changes.”