Katsuta managing Poland expectations

The Toyota driver has no experience of Polish stages, so will be taking no risks on his first visit

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As the World Rally Championship returns to Poland next week, most crews will be dredging their memory banks and digging out their pacenotes and onboard videos from the WRC’s last trip to Mikołajki in 2017.

Not so Takamoto Katsuta. Back then, the Toyota WRC Challenge Program graduate was still building his experience of European events with a varied schedule, including a WRC2 campaign aboard a Tommi Mäkinen Racing-run Ford Fiesta R5.

Poland was not on the program, and – unlike M-Sport’s Grégoire Munster – Katsuta hasn’t contested any of its ERC editions since, either. Munster’s team-mate Adrien Fourmaux is in the same boat; he and Katsuta are the only two Rally1 drivers with no prior experience of the event to draw upon.

Takamoto Katsuta

Katsuta's apprenticeship did not include any rallies in Poland

Katsuta is based in Finland and has plenty of experience of fast gravel rallies. He has a good record on them too, including an impressive podium finish in his adopted homeland last year.

But, while we might group rallies with particular characteristics together, every event is different. There is no substitute for experience – something Katsuta is keenly aware of.

“For sure, Poland is going to be big challenge for me because I’ve never been there,” he told DirtFish. “Everybody else, except maybe me and Fourmaux, has been there. So, yeah, it’s quite a big advantage [for them]. So I don’t expect too much.”

It’s a task made no easier by an up-and-down start to 2024 where he’s had to retire and restart from three of the four loose-surface events to date, including Portugal and Sardinia over the past six weeks.


Transmission failure ended Katsuta's hopes of a good result in Sardinia

But positives have also been there: Katsuta has displayed decent pace, leading in both Sweden and Portugal; and strong resolve helped him bring the car home second on the Safari immediately after his Swedish disappointment.

It was a gearbox problem that sidelined Katsuta in Sardinia. He had just risen to third overall and could take some comfort that it was not his mistake that cost a good result.

“I didn’t push too much,” he said. “OK, pace was a bit lacking compared to Ott [Tänak] and Seb [Ogier], but I was not pushing like that. So it’s all OK. [The] positive is I [was in] control around the podium places but, unfortunately, caught out by a technical issue.

“The result didn’t come this time because of this. But for the future, I just try to continue like this and, hopefully, at some point get a good result.”

With a favorable position of sixth on the road, could that be in Poland despite his lack of experience? Katsuta isn’t going to push it.

“Of course, I try to do my best,” he said, “try to watch the onboard from other drivers, but we don’t have pacenotes, obviously. So just accept at some point how much I can do.”