Toyota promotes two of its youngsters to Rally2

Toyota WRC Challenge program drivers Hikaru Kogure and Yuki Yamamoto will step up a class for 2024


Two of Toyota’s young Japanese drivers will step up to Rally2 competition for 2024, the manufacturer has announced.

As part of the Toyota Gazoo Racing WRC Challenge Program, Hikaru Kogure and Yuki Yamamoto have competed in two-wheel-drive Renault Clio Rally4 cars for the past two seasons. They have taken part in Finnish national and some international rallies, including Rally Sweden and Rally Finland.

They will now continue to follow in the footsteps of fellow Toyota junior driver Takamoto Katsuta, taking to four-wheel-drive competition in Rally2 cars for selected rallies across Europe next year, including more WRC events.

Yuki Yamamoto

The pair are naturally delighted with their promotion, having both faced a steep learning curve on the program so far.

“At the beginning, I struggled quite a lot as I had very little experience on gravel or snow,” said Kogure.

“I found the pacenote system to be completely different. But I did a lot of recce training with my co-driver Topi [Luhtinen] and I felt a lot of progress during the most recent rallies. Rally2 is going to be another step but I’m really looking forward to it.”

The duo, who are based in Finland, have progressed under the watchful eye of the program’s chief instructor, 15-time WRC rally winner Mikko Hirvonen.

“They have all done really well with the program over the past two seasons,” said Hirvonen. “They have made very good progress, and it has given them great experience in rallying and life in general, as they’ve been living alone, a long way from home.

“Yuki has been really strong and has always been able to perform when everything has been working technically. Hikaru came to us with not so much rally experience, but he worked really hard to make big steps and was able to catch up, which impressed us.

“The program will get more difficult now they are stepping up to Rally2. The competition will be harder and the pace will be higher, but we are excited to see what they can do when we push them even harder.”

Yamamoto added: “In the last few rallies we showed some good speed. So I think we progressed a lot and I feel I’m ready to step up to Rally2.

“Of course, it’s a very competitive category with a lot of good drivers so it will be very interesting to see how we can build up the pace and our skills.


“It won’t be easy to be at top speed immediately, but I believe we can have a good learning process and hopefully we can fight for top results in the future.”

The pair will likely compete in Toyota’s all-new GR Yaris Rally2, the Japanese marque’s first Rally2 car which is set to debut in 2024.

Nao Otake, the third member of the current crop of WRC Challenge Program drivers, will continue with Toyota backing with a new program in the Japanese Rally Championship next year.

The process to recruit a new intake of young drivers to Toyota’s WRC Challenge Program is also under way, following a recent qualification phase held at Fuji Speedway in Japan. The final selection will take place in Finland in December.