Takamoto Katsuta wants to deliver Toyota a dream 1-2-3-4 result on Rally Japan, and feels he has the pace to do it.
The Japanese star won five out of seven stages across Saturday’s action, setting up a final day chase for fourth against Hyundai’s Esapekka Lappi.
For Katsuta, who currently sits sixth in the standings 3m50.2s shy of current fourth place man Lappi, the thought of making that dream a reality is plenty to spur him on heading into Sunday.
“For sure it’s big, big motivation I have for that,” he told DirtFish. “The only thing I can do now is get the 1-2-3-4 for Toyota.
“I lost the opportunity to fight for P1 on day one in the morning, of course that is [a] really really big disappointment for me, and for the fans.
“But now I focus on bringing the very good result for the team.”
Katsuta impressively cut the gap to Lappi by 42.7s over the course of Saturday, and also closed to within 14.9s of fifth place man Ott Tänak. And even more remarkably, the Japanese driver feels he can still go faster tomorrow.
“Yeah I think so,” Katsuta said, when asked if he has more up his sleeve for Sunday. “I think I have to stay in powerstage mode.”
A repeat of Saturday’s speed across the final 52 miles of the rally would be enough to pass both Lappi and Tänak, and secure Toyota the result it desires so much. But the Japanese driver knows tomorrow will bring a new day, and a renewed effort from his rivals.
“Of course the stages are different, and I dunno how it’s doing,” he said. “Esapekka [Lappi] is doing well, it’s never easy to catch both of them, Ott and EP.
“So I just keep pushing and I don’t look too much at the time. I just do my best and let’s see how it goes.”
When quizzed on whether he feels he can hold off the Katsuta charge, Lappi wasn’t entirely confident.
“The guys know the stages and I don’t, but I don’t stress about it,” he said. “He’s [Katsuta] been doing very well today and also yesterday apart from the spin. It’s really impressive.
“So if he catches me then he deserves it for sure.”
And Lappi wasn’t the only one signing the home hero’s praises in the service park on Saturday night.
“It’s quite amazing the time he was doing all the day, and his consistency is something we haven’t seen from him, so we need to take hats off for Taka – well done!” said team-mate Sébastien Ogier.
“Many people have pace at some point but sometimes it ends a bit too quickly in the trees then, so being able to do it on a whole day and without any mistakes that’s a very positive sign for him, and I’m happy.
“He is working hard I believe to achieve that, so he deserves it.”
Katsuta’s team boss Jari-Matti Latvala agreed with the eight-time world champion.
“He started with really amazing speed,” he said “I think the speed was maybe too much for the conditions! And then the mistake happened.
“But I really admire him the way he came after the accident, to be able to drive fast and consistently after that.”