Katsuta: I must be mentally stronger

The Japanese driver hopes his Rally Sweden disappointment will make him stronger


In motorsport, you can go from hero to zero in the blink of an eye.

Takamoto Katsuta was on the verge of being the hero. Chasing a maiden World Rally Championship win, he was in the box seat for Rally Sweden: his world champion team-mate was out and the other Toyota GR Yaris Rally1 was acting as a snow plow.

This was to be Taka’s moment. On the first stage of Saturday morning, he’d cut the gap to rally leader Esapekka Lappi to 0.9s.

All it took for that opportunity to disappear was running slightly wide on a fast right-hander. The Yaris floated helplessly towards the snowbank on the outside, glanced it, and was pitched nose-first into deep snow. He was stuck. The win was gone.


Katsuta described his Saturday crash as the biggest dissapointment of his career

Lappi was the next car through: Katsuta, stood at the side of the road, gave a thumbs up as he drove past to show his Hyundai rival that he was OK.

Physically, he was fine. Mentally, less so.

“When I came and went back to the hotel, I was very, very disappointed and still could not believe what I did,” Katsuta told DirtFish afterwards.

It was understandable that, after a few minutes spent in the next media zone following his accident, he’d been on the verge of tears, struggling to find the words as he faced the television cameras.

By the next day, he’d gotten back on the horse and started riding again, aiming to chase down some Sunday points.

“Big things can happen in the future still, but I’m pretty sure that after one slip, I will be OK,” he said.

“I mean, I’m not that strong mentally, but I’m quite sure that I can reset quite well and I don’t need to think anything, especially when we are on the rally weekend, so it’s all quite, quite working well.”


War wounds: Katsuta's damaged Toyota flies into Umeå's Red Barn Arena on Sunday's powerstage

“It helps a lot if I gain something to reset earlier or avoid overthinking. Normally, I’m overthinking all the time, so I’d say that I need to improve on this area. But it’s getting better and better because when you’re having these kinds of difficult, tough moments, I feel each time that it’s easier than the moment before. I feel like I’m also getting stronger in this area.

“So hopefully in the future, I’m very, very strong mentally.”

There was another off-moment on Sunday that put his resilience to the test. On the second pass of Västervik, he hit a compression with too much speed and speared off into another snowbank; this time he was able to drive out of it. But it did mean any hope of a strong haul of Sunday points was in the bin.

Toyota team principal Jari-Matti Latvala knows a lot about mistakes: he made plenty of them during his driving career and for a time had a reputation for crashing. But mistakes are also learning opportunities and with more starts than anyone in WRC history, Latvala has the biggest knowledge bank of all for Katsuta to lean on.

Latvala believes it’s not a question of ability. It’s a question of patience. A strong mentality will help deliver Katsuta’s next big career milestone: a first win.

“You see he has the performance; that’s not the question,” Latvala pointed out. “He can also drive sensibly when it’s that, but I think it’s getting your first victory. Yes, he has been on the podium, but you can’t force the victory. It will come when the time is right.”