In sliding off the road in New Zealand, Takamoto Katsuta didn’t just forfeit his participation in the rally but brought an incredible run of World Rally Championship results to an end.
On all 10 rounds of the 2022 season prior to New Zealand, Katsuta had scored a top-10 finish and therefore a points’ finish. Kalle Rovanperä was the only other driver who came close to such a run, managing a run of eight points-scoring finishes.
Such consistency has seen Katsuta climb up to fifth in the world championship standings this year with two rounds of the season remaining – starting with next week’s Rally Spain.
He has every chance of making it an incredible 12 points-scoring finishes from 13 if he filters into the top 10 in Spain and at home in Japan. But Katsuta has sadly missed out on the chance of joining a rather elite club of drivers who have managed to complete a full season of finishing in the points.
And two of the three members are currently competing against Katsuta in the WRC.
We haven’t factored in drivers from the 1970s, ’80s or early ’90s as in an era when dropped scores were allowed, it’s not a comparable feat. And anybody in the modern era – like Rovanperä this year – who’s collected powerstage points but finished outside of the points-paying overall results have been discounted too.
Here’s who Katsuta could have joined had he not gone off in New Zealand:
Mikko Hirvonen (2008)
Famed for his consistency, it’s probably no surprise to see Mikko Hirvonen’s name on this list.
In fact, he came within one round of pulling off a full-house of points scores on three separate occasions – 2007, 2011, 2012 (where he did finish in the points every time but was stripped of his Rally Portugal win).
But it was in 2008, his first as Ford’s team leader, that he managed to go a full season within the points. And what made this more remarkable is it was achieved when points were only awarded to the top eight – not the top 10 like the other two on this list.
Victories in Jordan, Turkey and Japan were the highlights of Hirvonen’s 2008 campaign but it was his ability to hoover up the points that ensured he remained a threat to champion Sébastien Loeb.
Second five times (Monte Carlo, Sweden, Sardinia, Finland and Corsica) and third three times (Greece, New Zealand and Spain), Hirvonen was only off the podium four times across the 14-round season.
Fourth in México and Germany, Argentina was his first real blip as Hirvonen damaged his suspension in incredibly foggy and therefore difficult conditions. But he fought back to claim fifth.
The finale in Wales threatened to undo Hirvonen’s epic run too when he embarrassingly rolled in front of a load of spectators on the Sweet Lamb stage. But the retirement of Henning Solberg on the final day allowed Hirvonen to creep into eighth and score points on every single round.
Sébastien Loeb (2010)
Hirvonen may be the first driver to have registered points on all rounds across a season, but Sébastien Loeb raised the bar two years later in 2010.
Pushed hard for the 2009 title by his Ford rival after a string of crashes for Loeb opened up the door, Citroën’s star turned up the wick and was utterly relentless the following season.
Loeb won a dominant eight of the 13 rounds, but more than that he only ever featured off the podium once all season – when he finished a low-key fifth in Japan.
Second to Hirvonen in Sweden, Loeb then won three on the bounce in México, Jordan and Turkey before finishing third on that crazy edition of Rally New Zealand.
Loeb was then narrowly edged by debut winner Sébastien Ogier in Portugal before returning to winning ways in Bulgaria. Third was all he could manage in Finland but yet another win in Germany (an eighth in a row on the event) led to Japan which teed him up for an historic seventh world title.
Loeb didn’t just equal Michael Schumacher’s record from Formula 1 but did so in his home town of Haguenau which hosted the final stage. Two more wins in Spain and Wales capped off the strongest season of Loeb’s career – and marks him out as the only world champion to score points on every round of the season in which they claimed the title.
Elfyn Evans (2021)
Elfyn Evans’ strike rate might be anything but impressive this year with four non-scores from 11 and currently two in a row, but last year he was a model of consistency.
It wasn’t a campaign littered with wins – just two in Portugal and Finland – but Evans’ ability to always linger somewhere in the points helped extend the longevity of a title dispute that had long looked to be Ogier’s.
Compared to Hirvonen and Loeb before him, Evans’ collection of podiums across the season (five excluding wins) isn’t quite as impressive but he was just as effective at always being there.
After finishing second on the Monte, Arctic Rally Finland was a touch more disappointing in fifth but a painful second in Croatia (losing the lead on the final stage) and victory in Portugal kept him firmly in the title race.
Evans lost significant ground on Safari Rally Kenya though when he thwacked his front-right wheel against an uncovered rock and destroyed his suspension. But despite finishing 49 minutes down on Ogier, Evans crept up into 10th place to record a single championship point.
That proved to be the low of his season, so the recovery preserved his run. Sixth in Greece after a gearbox issue and a frustrating fifth in Estonia weren’t great for his championship challenge but the #33 Yaris WRC made it to the end of the 12-round season having always featured in the top 10.
Who will be the next driver to join this club? Can Katsuta do it next year, or will somebody else steal his thunder? Let us know in the comments section.