Despite sitting fifth in the World Rally Championship standings – ahead of his Toyota team-mate Kalle Rovanperä – Takamoto Katsuta will not step up to the Japanese firm’s main squad next season.
Team principal Jari-Matti Latvala has told DirtFish he wants to shelter Katsuta from the pressure of scoring points for the manufacturer for one more season before he considers putting him on the front line for Toyota.
The team is expected to retain both Elfyn Evans and Rovanperä for 2022 but, with Sébastien Ogier scaling back his WRC commitment, it needs somebody to drive the third Yaris WRC in conjunction with Ogier.
It is different when you have to drive under the pressure and deliver the results, the pointsJari-Matti Latvala
Latvala spoke emotionally about Katsuta’s maiden WRC podium at Safari Rally Kenya last weekend and added that he didn’t want to rush the 28-year-old’s development.
“His progress is incredible,” Latvala told DirtFish, “what he has done is amazing. I said before Kenya that I’m very confident we will see him in the top three driver line-up in the future, but if I am very honest I wouldn’t want to put him in that position next year.
“It is different when you have to drive under the pressure and deliver the results, the points. The situation will change and I would want to see him one more year working to build the experience and the speed in the sort of second team – this would be good for him next year.”
In terms of targets for Katsuta, Latvala said a second podium would be a great return from the second half of the year.
“Taka has done really good steps,” said Latvala, “and I’m sure we will see him on the podium again in the near future. The next step to the win is, for sure, a big one.
“It’s hard to see that happening this year, especially when there are drivers like Kalle around. Kalle has had some bad luck and is so, so hungry for the victory.
“I hope to see Taka winning, but there is not the pressure for that this season. If there is a target, it’s to make another podium in the second half of the year.”
Is Toyota right to leave Katsuta out of its main squad, or is it making the wrong decision? Let us know in the comments.