How Katsuta chose to put his team before himself

Takamoto Katsuta took the Super Sunday win at Croatia Rally but was willing to throw it all away to help his team-mate


The question was, if we’re honest, a little bit naughty. But it felt like it had to be asked. We all know Toyota’s attitude to team orders. They’re very much much not part of the plan. But maybe Taka had his own plan…

After charging through Sunday morning Takamoto Katsuta’s pace slackened considerably when it came to the powerstage. Had he potentially lifted a touch to stay out of the way of team-mate and championship aspirant Elfyn Evans?

The anticipated response was a) a slightly quizzical look or b) something of a grin.

We got neither. Instead, we got: “For me, of course, I was thinking a bit about the points for Elfyn, but also I was thinking about the Sunday points for the team, so I had no choice.”

Not quite a team order then, in fact not a team order at all. More a team-mate thinking about how he can help a mate.


Two stage wins gave him his first Super Sunday win, but the team result was every bit as important for Katsuta

“Our team is always quite free, so normally no team orders or anything, even small things, nothing. So, all the drivers are free to do anything that they want. But for sure my main target is to get extra points for the team on Sunday. So, anyway I had to push because Ott was coming behind.”

The drama on SS18 that included a spin for the Welshman ultimately meant that Katsuta’s personal sacrifice was not required on this occasion. Instead, he could focus on delivering as many manufacturers’ points as possible. This he achieved by taking his first Super Sunday win, along with two powerstage bonus points. 

It was an impressive turnaround for the Japanese, who had started the rally off the pace. He struggled to get comfortable in the car on Friday and, on Saturday, was hampered by a wet set-up on roads that had unexpectedly remained dry.


Katsuta was off the pace for much of Friday, complaining that he was struggling to find the feeling the Yaris

“Probably on Friday I was too much looking,” he told DirtFish. “I knew this rally will be very tricky, the weather looked very bad, so I thought I just need to survive on Friday and Saturday, then let’s see on Sunday. 

“At the last stage of Friday, I felt some good section and some split times were good, so then I started to think why I was good this one but not the other one. Then Saturday I came step by step back to my feeling and confidence. So Sunday, I was pretty confident.”

That increased confidence was clear to see, and Katsuta was ultimately left happy with his weekend’s work.

He added: “For sure I was really disappointed in myself on Friday, so something at least very positive from this weekend. On Sunday I felt very good with the car and everything was working well. On the powerstage, probably I was not really committed enough, but otherwise it went very well.”

With his results improving, Katsuta also feels a win could soon be on the cards if he can keep building on the current momentum.

“Some stages feel good and time is good, but like I’m always saying: it’s never easy to beat the top five. They are world champions so they can win any rallies and they have all the experience. It’s never easy to beat them. 

“I need to really step-by-step to build everything, confidence and feeling. And then at the end, finally, at some point fighting against them. This is my plan but no rush, rush will not help. This is what I know from my career, so I just try to take it step-by-step.”

If Katsuta can keep making those positive steps and consistently take the fight to his rivals, it won’t only help to give him his first rally win. Coupled with the indomitable team spirit that has been instilled within him and the other Toyota drivers, he is sure to contribute to Toyota adding to the five drivers’ and four manufacturers’ titles it has already won since 2017.