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Toyota won’t put more pressure on Katsuta at WRC Rally Sweden

Toyota World Rally Championship boss Jari-Matti Latvala says the team won’t "put more pressure" on Takamoto Katsuta to deliver in his first drive for the factory team this weekend.

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

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Katsuta will pilot the third points scoring GR Yaris for the first time in his career at Rally Sweden after earning a promotion to the seat for half of the 2023 season.

The Japanese driver has been driving a fourth GR Yaris, not eligible for manufacturer points, in the WRC since 2020, having come through Toyota’s WRC Challenge driver development programme.

However, Esapekka Lappi’s decision to leave the team for a full-time drive at Hyundai this year, created an opening for former single seater driver Katsuta to share the third 2023 entry with eight-time world champion Sebastien Ogier this season.

This weekend marks Katsuta’s first drive in the elevated role, and while both Latvala and driver admit the position comes with extra pressure, there are no added expectations from Toyota.

"First time being in the factory team I know there will be a bit more pressure, but we don’t put any more pressure on him and I wish that he doesn’t take more pressure," said Latvala.

"We don’t expect too much. If he can just continue to do the same work which he has done last year that is enough. If he can keep going the same rhythm it is absolutely perfect for us."

Katsuta was the WRC’s most consistent driver last season as the Japanese scored drivers’ points finishes in 12 of the 13 rounds on his way to a career high fifth in the championship standings.

Looking ahead to this weekend snow rally in Sweden, Katsuta admits there will be more pressure to perform but is treating the event the same as any rally last year.

"Of course there is a little bit more pressure than there used to be, but let’s say this is where I really want to be," said Katsuta, who won the WRC2 class at Rally Sweden in 2018.

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

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

Photo by: Red Bull Content Pool

"For sure, it will be challenging at some points but I will try to manage it and bring good points for the team. I will try to do my best which is no different.

"I’m excited to be back on the snow as this is something I am really familiar with.

"I would say the team has done quite a big step to improve the car from last year on the snow and the feeling was incredibly good [in the test].

"Hopefully this can give us more confidence and a good result in Sweden, but other teams are for sure improving and developing, so we need to be on full attack."

To aid his preparation for Rally Sweden, Katsuta contested the second round of the Finnish Rally Championship in Kuopio last weekend, where he competed against former team-mate and now Hyundai driver Lappi.

Katsuta had held second behind Lappi before an off on Stage 5 of the eight stage event ended his rally prematurely.

Rally Sweden begins on Thursday night with a super special stage held in host city Umea.

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