TOYOTA GAZOO Racing Rally Challenge Program makes progress to get closer to WRC
TOYOTA GAZOO Racing Rally Challenge Program is making progress to the next phase in 2019, aimed at producing a WRC driver from the program. The program has been operated for three and half years with the cooperation of Tommi Mäkinen Racing since 2015. To move on to the next phase, Takamoto Katsuta has been selected as its driver. In 2019 the driver will continue gaining experience by mainly participating in WRC2 events, with some other elements to be added to the program as well (*).
Katsuta will also participate in Rally Spain, the 12th round of FIA World Rally Championship in October 2018.
Shigeki Tomoyama (President, GAZOO Racing Company）
I'm very happy to see that our crew has grown up a lot through the program. I appreciate the instructors and the team, who have given passionate coaching and support to them all the time. This program was started to help Japanese youngsters become world-class rally drivers. 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.
Jouni Ampuja（Chief instructor）
I'm very satisfied and proud about how Takamoto Katsuta and Hiroki Arai have improved their skills during the program. 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. Katsuta has been able to make a remarkable progress since he started in this program, as he basically didn't have any rallying experience before entering the Challenge Program. I'm sure that Arai also has all the skills needed to reach the highest levels of rallying. He can be very proud of what he has achieved in this program. Sayaka Adachi has also been part of Challenge Program as well, as she's been co-driving for Finnish driver Jarkko Nikara. It's a great challenge to co-drive someone as fast as Jarkko, and Adachi has proved that she can be competitive at the extremely high level of the Finnish Championship. Sayaka has gained a great amount of experience from European rallying and she can be proud of her own progress during the program.
Katsuta and co-driver Marko Salminen will participate in the 12th round of the World Rally Championship: Rally Spain from October 25-28, with a Ford Fiesta R5. It will be their second participation on this event, after last year.
Born in Aichi, Japan on March 17, 1993. Katsuta drove in his first kart race at the age of 12 and at age 18 he won the Formula Challenge Japan (FCJ). He placed second in the F3 series at age 20, and since 2014 he has competed in F3 in addition to notching his first JN5 class win in the eighth round of the Japanese Rally Championship. In the seventh round of the 2017 FIA World Rally Championship (Italy), he took his first podium by finishing third in the WRC2 class. In 2018 he won Rally Sweden, the second round of World Rally Championship in the WRC2 class.