Toyota picks Katsuta for WRC future

Toyota will focus on rising star Takamoto Katsuta in its quest to fast-track a Japanese pilot to a top-line WRC drive.

The 25-year-old was picked ahead of fellow Toyota GAZOO Racing Rally Challenge Program member Hiroki Arai to move to the next phase of the development scheme.

It has long been a dream of Toyota's President Akio Toyoda to see a Japanese driver competing for the team at top level.

Since the project was launched in 2015, both candidates have progressed from driving two to four-wheel drive cars on a mix of European and World Championship events. Currently competing in WRC 2, Katsuta claimed his maiden category win at Rally Sweden in February.  

The programme's chief instructor, Jouni Ampuja, said he was ‘satisfied and proud’ with how both drivers had improved.

"The selection wasn't easy, as both drivers have the potential to reach a high level in rallying. However, at this point of the program we want to put all our efforts into one driver to reach the stated WRC target," he explained.

Takamoto Katsuta will tackle more WRC 2 events in 2019.

"Takamoto has been able to make a remarkable progress since he started in this program, as he basically didn't have any rallying experience before. I'm sure that Hiroki also has all the skills needed to reach the highest levels of rallying. He can be very proud of what he has achieved."

Next year, Katsuta and co-driver Marko Salminen will tackle more WRC 2 events as well as other appearances that will be announced later. The pair will also contest next month's RallyRACC Catalunya - Rally de España (25-28 October) with a Ford Fiesta R5.
 
"I'm very happy to see that our crew has grown up a lot through the program,"
Gazoo Racing president Shigeki Tomoyama added.

"Since Toyota came back to the WRC, we have heard from many fans that they would love to see a Japanese driver behind the wheel of the Yaris WRC. I'm glad we are taking another step forward to achieve this goal by enhancing the program next year."
 

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