You’d be hard pushed to find anyone more excited about the World Rally Championship’s return to Japan than Takamoto Katsuta.
This weekend marks the first time in the Toyota driver’s career that he gets to throw the GR Yaris Rally1 around stages on his home soil.
It’s undeniably a special moment for any driver, predominantly because of the increased support received from their compatriots standing on the banks watching their hero battle it out with the world’s best.
But often local knowledge of the stages can give the driver a slight advantage too. Just look at Hayden Paddon on Rally New Zealand.
There’ll be plenty of home support for Katsuta, but he actually doesn’t have the home advantage you might expect.
“I think almost all of the stages are new for me,” Katsuta explained to DirtFish.
“Only two stages, maybe five kilometers or something is the same as Central Rally, which I did with a World Rally Car. Otherwise, totally new.
“It’s gonna be very challenging for me as well. I have not much experience!
“I’m Japanese but I live in Finland and we don’t have so much information about Japanese stages. It can be tricky.”
Katsuta is still confident he can produce a strong result though.
“This is my aim,” he said. “[I’ve been] building the confidence since Ypres to here for the Rally Japan.
“Of course, Rally Japan is going to be very different type of rally but at least my Tarmac driving feeling is now very good and I have confidence. I will do my best of course and I will enjoy the Japanese roads.”
Competing on home soil is not the only special element of Katsuta’s participation in this year’s Rally Japan.
For the first time this year, he won’t be the only Katsuta competing on a WRC event, since his father Norihiko Katsuta is also on the entry list.
“Of course I’m really excited. I will see all of my friends and family,” said Katsuta Jr.
“Of course my hometown is just next to the service park city, so I’m really excited for that. My father is also competing with a GR Yaris Group N, so it’s going to be interesting.”
But the all important question: can Katsuta beat his dad?
“He’s quite quick, so let’s see!”