Wed 10 Apr 2024

Local support unlocks Taka’s podium potential

Takamoto Katsuta added another Safari Rally Kenya podium to his record last month – with the African event now accounting for three of his five top-three WRC finishes.

In typical Safari Rally fashion, gruelling conditions pierced the FIA World Rally Championship field, but Katsuta and his team-mate Kalle Rovanperä, who finished second and first overall respectively, were the least hard hit.

Katsuta now boasts an enviable Safari record, having achieved podium results on three out of four starts. Japanese drivers have, traditonally, performed well on rough terrain; Kenjiro Shinozuka claimed the runner-up spot in the 1994 Safari and won twice in the Ivory Coast earlier in his career, while Yoshio Fujimoto stood atop the Kenyan rostrum in 1995.

While Katsuta found it difficult to pinpoint why the Japanese are so strong on endurance-style events, he did reveal that local support played a big part in this year’s Safari success.

“I’m not sure [about Japanese success on the Safari]; it’s hard to say, but for me, it’s quite nice to drive here,” he told WRC.com. “In Japan, there is nothing like these kinds of roads, but I can feel that the people are supporting us quite a lot.

“We can see that a lot of local cars [in Kenya] are Toyota. It’s like a big support from the people and the country, and this support is quite huge. It somehow gives me some luck, I believe, and definitely if you don’t have good luck in this rally, then you cannot achieve any result.”

Katsuta was relieved to get a strong score on the board after he crashed out of the previous rally in Sweden while battling with Esapekka Lappi for the lead.

“It was a big disappointment in Sweden, so I just wanted to bring the car back in one piece in Kenya,” he said. “It was a bit of a different approach with the car. We had no [mechanical] problems and, even if I was sacrificing speed in some places, we were just trying to manage the situation and, in the end, it paid off.”

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