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WRC Rally Finland

Katsuta: Rovanpera's driving tips key to WRC Finland podium

Takamoto Katsuta believes driving tips offered by Kalle Rovanpera from a pre-event test outing the pair shared helped secure a confidence-boosting World Rally Championship podium in Finland.

Takamoto Katsuta, Aaron Johnston, Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT NG Toyota GR Yaris Rally1

The Toyota driver came through an intense battle with Hyundai’s Teemu Suninen to claim the final podium spot at last weekend’s high-speed gravel rally, marking the Japanese driver’s best result of the season to date.

Finland-based Katsuta headed to his second home round low on confidence after struggling to unlock pace from his GR Yaris in Estonia last month, where he finished seventh, 3m10.2s adrift of winner Rovanpera.

After sealing third with a 4.3s margin over Suninen, Katsuta paid tribute to the advice Rovanpera had given him after sitting next to the world champion in the GR Yaris during the Finn's pre-event test. He also credited the assistance from Toyota’s engineers following an analysis of his Estonia struggles.  

Katusta scored two stage wins during Rally Finland including a win on Stage 18 in tricky wet conditions, where he admitted he felt “scared in places”. But it was here where Rovanpera’s hints proved crucial in overhauling Suninen.

“Of course, it is a big, big thing for me [to be on the podium] because as you know in Estonia I had a bad run there and I had no speed at all,” said Katsuta.

“The team then analysed a lot and gave me things to improve. At the same time I was with Kalle at the test and I was in the car sitting next to him, and he was driving and giving me a lot of tips. 

“This was helping me a lot to understand how to drive because in Estonia I was almost losing my confidence and everything. I have to give a huge thanks to Kalle and, of course, to the engineers that analysed where I was losing time in Estonia.

Elfyn Evans, Scott Martin, Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT Toyota GR Yaris Rally1, Takamoto Katsuta, Aaron Johnston, Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT NG Toyota GR Yaris Rally1 with the team

Elfyn Evans, Scott Martin, Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT Toyota GR Yaris Rally1, Takamoto Katsuta, Aaron Johnston, Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT NG Toyota GR Yaris Rally1 with the team

Photo by: Red Bull Content Pool

“Ok, the conditions were not the same [as the test] but at least how to use the ruts and things like that were a big, big help for me to understand how he is driving. For sure, in the second pass of some stages they were really rutted and Kalle gave me things from this test about how to push in the stages.

“Before a high-speed rally it is very important to analyse what you are doing wrong, so this has definitely helped me.

"For sure, I’m a lot better [confidence-wise}. The team engineers are analysing a lot and working very hard to give me a lot of things to help me improve. Without this it would be difficult to be in this position with this speed I would say.”

The podium also arrived in front of Toyota chairman Akio Toyoda, who was also acting as team principal, standing in for Jari-Matti Latvala, who made a one-off WRC return in a fourth GR Yaris, he guided to fifth.

“I’m quite happy of course and it was a very intense battle with me and Teemu and actually he was doing a very good job,” Katsuta added.

“I’m really happy to be on the podium in front of Akio-san and I had huge support from him and my family.”

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