Talking to Takamoto Katsuta about last year’s Acropolis Rally isn’t the easiest. It’s hard to find the positives. He was five minutes off the lead in sixth place… then he went off the road on the powerstage.
What to say?
Predictably, Katsuta senses what’s going on and throws me a lifeline.
“I was nowhere last year,” he told DirtFish. “I struggled last year so much: I had no speed and I struggled for the whole really to try to find the rhythm and I didn’t. It was not such a good event for the whole team last year.”
This week’s plan is a simple one.
“To be better than last year,” he smiled.
“I have to be honest and say my feeling for the rally [this week] is not so good. I was not able to test [because of the fires].
“Of course, I understand the reason for this and I completely accept this.”
Sébastien Ogier’s return to the Toyota team means Katsuta will be relieved of scoring points for the Japanese manufacturer. Toyota – like rival Hyundai – had its test schedule altered at the last minute due to fire risks in the Loutraki area where it was planning to run.
Ultimately, the logistics of getting Katsuta in the test Yaris were beyond even the Jyväskylä team.
“I understand this too,” said Katsuta. “Of course, main drivers need to drive. But I wanted to come and make a good test and a good rally, it will be tough.
“The thing I have to do is find the rhythm and find the right level of risk. As well as this, it’s so important to have the accurate pacenotes which you are trusting and to be patient in the car.
“Now, in my mind I am thinking I will start with Kalle’s setup. We are very close in the car [for setup] and the same a little bit with Séb. Obviously we will have meetings to talk about this, but I think this is what I will take to shakedown.
“From then, I go step-by-step and see how is the feeling in each stage.
“Really, you know, Acropolis is not easy rally at all. Very difficult. The speed is not so high like Finland or Estonia, but the grip level can sometimes be low and there are so many rough sections!
“Like I say, for me, I want to be better than last year.”