Toyota has confirmed Takamoto Katsuta will step up to the main team for next season, sharing a third GR Yaris Rally1 with Sébastien Ogier.
The 29-year-old finished a career-best fifth overall in this year’s World Rally Championship, scoring a brace of podiums – including a face-saving third position at Toyota’s home event, last week’s Rally Japan.
The position opened up for Katsuta after Esapekka Lappi departed the team, bound for Hyundai. Confirmation of Lappi’s program with the Hyundai will come later on Friday.
Katsuta said: “I’m really excited to make this next step in my career. To have this kind of role with the team has been a big target for me and I want to thank Toyota Gazoo Racing for giving me such an amazing opportunity.
“Of course, it will bring a bit more pressure than before, but I am very motivated to keep working hard to be ready for next season and to do the best job I can for the team.”
Katsuta graduated from Toyota’s WRC Challenge Program and will now contribute to the team’s defense of its 2022 manufacturers’ title.
Ogier is expected to tackle around half of the 2023 season. When the eight-time champion is competing, a fourth GR Yaris Rally1 will be run for Katsuta. Vincent Landais will become his new full-time co-driver.
Team principal Jari-Matti Latvala said: “It’s very nice to welcome Takamoto into our main lineup to share a car with Sébastien, while also still gaining the experience of a full season.
“We believe the time is right for him to make this step. In 2022 he was the WRC’s most consistent scorer, so we are confident he can bring good points for the team.
“As a team, we have enjoyed an extremely good season in 2022. To win all three titles for the third year in a row will be a big challenge, but that is certainly our target next season and we need to keep working together to achieve it.
“Our other drivers have all proven they can win rallies and fight for championships. Kalle will have a new challenge trying to defend his title but he will be very motivated and loves driving the car.
“For Elfyn on the other hand, it has not been an easy 2022 season – but he finished it with a good feeling in the car and we are sure he will be strong in 2023. Finally, Séb has shown that, even when doing a part-season, he has the pace to win and he brings a lot to the team.”