Takamoto Katsuta doesn’t feel “too disappointed” to have rolled out of Rally New Zealand – a crash caused by being “maybe too focused” on one particular corner.
Running in fifth overall, Katsuta left the road on the second pass of the Puhoi stage – the penultimate test of Saturday – and rolled softly over; the car coming to rest after just one tumble but far enough down a bank to make it impossible to continue.
Off the back of his worst performance of what’s been an accomplished World Rally Championship campaign to date in Greece, Katsuta had again struggled to find the ultimate edge in New Zealand before his accident.
A spin on the second full stage of Friday wasn’t ideal but in general, his speed fell short of expectations as he failed to get within 10 seconds of the fastest time on any of the stages that he completed.
Heading into the afternoon, Katsuta had gained a position at the expense of Oliver Solberg, who had picked up a 10s time penalty for his Hyundai’s hybrid system overboosting on Friday’s final test.
But Katsuta told DirtFish he felt his pace had improved for the afternoon anyway; it was just masked by the fact Solberg’s i20 dropped to three cylinders, which was always going to allow Katsuta to gain time anyway.
“This afternoon I was trying to push more because I was lacking pace and I was not committed enough this morning and yesterday,” he explained.
“Finally I was starting to feel a bit comfortable and started to feel the good feeling from pacenotes, driving and the car as well so I felt pretty good after the first one in the afternoon.”
“On the second one at the beginning of the stage I felt good again so I tried to push more and there was a very fast right-hand corner and then you have 40 [meter] braking and a tight left corner.
“But basically on this fast right corner I was trying to go as fast as I can and I was maybe too focused on this corner, and when I hear that the next corner, the next information, was braking 40 I was not ready to brake and at the same time, I was pushing a lot for this right-hand corner so I was a bit sliding and the car was not ready for braking.
“So then I was a bit late [with my] braking and I couldn’t make the tight left corner.”
Katsuta estimated that he missed his braking by “less than 10 meters” but “on this kind of road it’s enough to fall off the road”.
It was Katsuta’s first rally-ending accident since January’s Monte Carlo Rally and it could well bring his sublime run of points finishes on each and every round this season to an end, as although he will restart on Sunday he will do so seven minutes adrift of the top 10 with just 19 competitive miles of rallying left.
But he doesn’t feel “too disappointed” to have made a mistake because he had finally begun to regain his confidence and speed.
“It was very, very mixed conditions which is good for me because it’s kind of one of the learnings also, so this kind of situation I was not anywhere fighting, I was just trying to try how I can improve and what I can see as my next step or anything,” Katsuta said.
“OK at the end I crashed which is not good, but still I’m not too, too disappointed because I was able to still see a few things.”
There was no frustration from Toyota either, as technical director Tom Fowler admitted “it’s a rally race, these things happen”.
Fowler added: “Taka’s always talking himself about how he needs to learn and he’s learning.
“I think when he comes to a new rally, specifically one like this where it’s difficult because it’s on roads unlike anywhere else that we go, he certainly drives differently and puts himself in the position where he’s trying to understand the car and understand the roads.
“There’s not so much to fix, I think he’s had a really strong season up to now.”