Tyrone-based rally co-driver Aaron Johnston made Irish rally history at the weekend by becoming the first Motorsport Ireland competition licence holder to stand on the podium of the legendary Safari Rally Kenya.
Johnston was on co-driving duties for Japanese ace Takamoto Katsuta in a Toyota Yaris RC1.
It was Katsuta’s second podium finish of his World Rally Championship career and comes one year after he finished second in the legendary event.
Johnston and Katusa started working together last year.
Their Safari Rally Kenya result was Johnston’s maiden WRC podium finish and moves the Toyota Gazoo Racing World Rally Challenge Programme crew up to joint third in the World Rally Championship standings.
This year the Safari Rally served up very tough conditions for the cars and drivers.
Challenges included great amounts of deep ‘fesh-fesh’ or fine dust, which can be extremely difficult to navigate.
It was particularly present in Friday’s Kedong stage, which was also the longest of the rally, but the Japanese/ Irish team avoided any problems and reached the end of the day in second place overall after setting three second-fastest stage times during the day.
On Saturday morning they lost a lot of time as a result of punctures – a common threat on the rock-strewn stages.
Rain then made conditions extremely difficult for the afternoon’s final two stages, creating lots of mud and standing water, but Katsuta and Johnston were able to hold on to third position overall.
They continued to maintain the place through Sunday’s final day, forming part of a historic 1-2-3-4 result for Toyota.
Katsuta was delighted to share the historic result with his Irish co-driver.
“I’m very very happy for him and because he did an incredible job not only for this rally, he organizes and preparing every rally very very well and I really wanted to give him the good result back but unfortunately last few rallies I was not so fast enough and I lost the podium in Portugal and I could not I give him many good results so finally I give him some good memories, so I’m now relaxed a little bit and very happy for that,” said Katsuta.
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