Takamoto Katsuta began his 2023 FIA World Rally Championship campaign at Rallye Monte-Carlo with the support of the TOYOTA GAZOO Racing WRC Challenge Program and produced his strongest performance to-date on the famous event as he finished sixth overall.
This season marks a step up in Katsuta’s career as he joins the main TOYOTA GAZOO Racing World Rally Team line-up on selected events, sharing the team’s third entry with eight-time champion Sébastien Ogier during the season. On other rallies, such as Monte-Carlo, he continues to gain experience in a fourth GR YARIS Rally1 HYBRID through the WRC Challenge Program.
Rallye Monte-Carlo is famed for its often-changeable conditions but the weather this year was unusually dry and consistent, making it more a test of outright speed than normal. In his fourth start on the event at the highest level of the WRC (and fifth appearance in total), Katsuta was immediately on the pace with the leading drivers, setting the fourth-fastest time on Thursday night’s dark opening stage up to the iconic Col de Turini.
A handbrake issue in the next stage slowed Katsuta through the numerous hairpins and dropped him to ninth place, but this was repaired for Friday when he and co-driver Aaron Johnston were again in the top-four times on four out of the six stages. This speed allowed him to climb up to sixth overall by Saturday’s first stage, and he continued to show consistent pace thereafter. He even came close to a stage win on Sunday’s penultimate test (denied only by eventual winner Ogier) to make a late challenge for fifth place, but ultimately had to settle for sixth after an impact in the final stage.
Takamoto Katsuta:“I’m happy to finish this rally and score some points at the beginning of the season. The conditions were a bit more consistent than the typical conditions for Rallye Monte-Carlo and when the grip level was high like on Friday I could feel I was getting more confident and comfortable in the car. Saturday was trickier for me, as there was more cutting and more dirt on the road. Where you needed to take risks I was maybe taking it a bit too easy. This is an area where I still need to improve but I learned many things. On Sunday I wanted to push in the final stage but something happened and we had an impact with a rock face. Thankfully we could finish and hopefully when I have a similar opportunity next time I can push all the way to the end.
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