Katsuta’s strategy to clinch a first WRC win

Taka-san bounced back from his Swedish disappointment in fine style on his favorite rally and is ready for the next step


When Takamoto Katsuta crashed out of the Rally Sweden lead battle, he was a broken man.

Back in the Umeå service park, there were tears in his eyes as he tried to find words. But they wouldn’t come as he stared into space, truly dumbfounded.

The hugely likeable Japanese driver had gone from feeling on top of the world to a sense of despair. The blistering speed he had demonstrated on his home rally in November had returned on the Swedish snow – and then he’d taken it too far. He felt like he’d let himself – and his team – down.

How could he come back from this?


From a desperate low to the high of a fifth WRC podium, it's be an emotional rollercoaster for Katsuta

With a cool, calm drive to second place on one of his favorite rallies; that’s how. Katsuta’s emotional rollercoaster ride returned to an upslope in Kenya as he finished runner-up to Toyota team-mate Kalle Rovanperä on the Safari.

“After Sweden, I was really, really disappointed in myself,” Katsuta admitted when he spoke to DirtFish. “Not only because of the result [but] because we had such a strong car – and fastest car – in Sweden, but I was not able to achieve the result because of my mistake.

“This is why I really wanted to bring a good result here. Also, I knew that the car is very strong here. So, I was trusting the car will not break [and] I just sacrificed the speed at some points.

“I didn’t panic. At some points I pushed and at some points I just slowed down, and it was working pretty well.”


The Toyota driver managed his driving according to the Kenyan conditions

His strong performance has given Katsuta the confidence that he can take the next step and become a WRC rally winner. He knows what is required: blending pace with consistency.

“Next target will be the first victory,” he confirmed. “But I believe still I have many things to improve. For sure, on some stages I can set a very good time, maybe fastest. But other stages, I was maybe losing too much time.

“It needs to be more like, even [when] you’re slowing down a bit, not too much – keeping in the top three or top four, not too far from the top. This is the next step I should do.”


Podium antics were a presssure release

After achieving his fifth career podium in the WRC – and his third on Safari Rally Kenya – Katsuta reckons he still has much to learn. But his belief is back.

“Rally is not very simple,” he said. “[There can be] very different stages in the same rally. And setup-wise also. So, I need to learn a lot. But I feel very confident and I’m getting closer and closer.

“It’s not easy because the top six, top five, they are such strong drivers, so it’s never easy to beat them. But of course, I want to improve myself and one day I want to try.”