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Katsuta Promises to “Really Push” in Japan

On the final day of last month’s Central European Rally, all eyes were on Kalle Rovanperä as he completed a drama-free Sunday to secure second place in the event and his second World Rally Championship title.

But the battle of the day, flying somewhat under the radar, was for fifth place between Toyota’s Takamoto Katsuta and Hyundai’s Teemu Suninen.

After starting the day 10.9 seconds adrift of Katsuta, Suninen struck Sunday’s first blow on SS15, closing the gap to 8.8s. But from that point onwards the Japanese driver seized the momentum, beating his rival on all three of the day’s remaining stages to seal a top-five finish for the second consecutive rally.

It was a satisfying result for Katsuta, who admitted that the importance of taking strong momentum into Rally Japan, his home event, played on his mind during his close battle with Suninen.

“Of course, it’s nice to finish the rally and the next rally is Rally Japan, so it’s very important to finish this rally with a good feeling,” he told DirtFish after CER. “At the end of the weekend I felt very good with the car and everything.

“I still could push extra if I tried to be really, really on the limit. But, like I said, it’s very important to finish with a good feeling.”

Katsuta enjoyed a strong result in Japan in 2022, taking a steady approach which paid dividends as the majority of the Rally1 field hit troubles on the narrow, twisty mountain roads.

It elevated him to third place by the end of the event and ensured there was one Toyota driver present on the podium in an otherwise disappointing home event for the manufacturer.

But the Japanese driver knows he can push even harder this year, and recognizes where he can gain speed based on the learnings from the WRC’s first visit to Nagoya.

“For sure, Rally Japan is my home country so I need to push,” he said. “Last year we got a podium but I was struggling a bit on Saturday.

“Friday was quite good, times were very competitive and I was not so far from the top. But Saturday, when it’s very twisty and the Tarmac changes a little bit I would say in the forests, I was hesitating a bit to carry more speed.

“There were a lot of blind corners. I had also probably a bit too much pressure of ‘I really need to finish’ so that had a bit of effect. But last year at least I finished so this year I try to really push.

“For sure, right now I am focused to find out what was wrong last year and try to push as much as I can every stage this year.”

The news that Katsuta is fully focused on attacking the stages in his GR Yaris Rally1 will be music to the ears of the Japanese fans, who the Toyota driver expects will give him an extra edge during the rally.

“For sure, a lot of energy I can feel [from the fans].” said Katsuta. “They are unfortunately not so much on the stage, but there is a lot of spectators and the fans on the road sections, so I felt a lot of energy [last year].

“This year I hope there will be even more people.”

Source : Dirt Fish