Tue 23 Aug 2022

Latvala: Now Katsuta needs to be fighting for podiums

Toyota Gazoo Racing team boss Jari-Matti Latvala has praised the consistency of Takamoto Katsuta and believes now is the time for him to take the next step.

Katsuta overcame a series of technical niggles to bring his GR Yaris car to the end of last weekend’s Ypres Rally Belgium in fifth overall. He has finished inside the top eight on every rally so far this season - making him the most consistent Rally1 driver to date. 

It is a major step forward for the young Japanese driver, who struggled in the latter half of 2021 when he retired from four consecutive rallies after earning his first podium in Kenya. 

“He has done a really great job,” enthused Latvala. “The line he has now done with results finishing the events is really nice and he has taken a step forward.

“Now one more step is to try to be fighting for the podiums more frequently.”

When asked how Katsuta can make that step, Latvala insisted he would not be pushing his young stead. 

“It has to come naturally,” he explained. “You have to build up the self-confidence and the speed will grow at the same time.”

Katsuta himself echoed the thoughts of his team principal. While pleased with his string of reliable finishes, the 29-year-old admitted he is yearning for more podiums.  

“It’s nice to see how it is going, but I want to increase more my pace and speed,” he explained. 

 “Of course, consistency is good - but the next step is to be fighting for the podium as much as I can. This step means taking bigger risks and this is my next target, but step by step I am getting closer and closer.

“Last year Estonia, Finland and Ypres were a disaster for me. I just wanted to be as smart as possible on these rallies and finish them. We did it and it’s good.”

Next month’s EKO Acropolis Rally Greece (8 - 11 September) is expected to suit Katsuta’s driving style, although it will be his first time contesting the event. In 2021 he withdrew prior to the start when then co-driver Keaton Williams was forced to leave due to personal reasons.

The rally he’s most excited for, however, is his home round in Japan which takes place in November. There, a big push is on the cards.

“After this weekend I felt better and I am getting more comfortable on Tarmac as well. This is very good for Rally Japan, but first we have Spain. I can get some more pace on the Spanish roads and get ready for Rally Japan.

“There will be big expectations and everyone will be watching. It is our home town and I need to push.”

Rally Japan (10 - 13 November) hosts the 2022 season finale, returning to the WRC for the first time since 2010 after the planned editions in 2020 and 2021 were cancelled due to the pandemic. 

Onboard of the rally: Ypres Rally Belgium
Asahi Kasei Turning Point: Ypres Rally Belgium
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