Gutted was the only way to describe Takamoto Katsuta’s demeanor at the end of the final stage of Rally Portugal.
He looked destined to secure his first top three World Rally Championship result of the season, but in the dying minutes of the rally Hyundai’s Dani Sordo swiped any hopes away, completing the Fafe powerstage 4.3 seconds faster than Katsuta.
It was (literally) a crying shame for Katsuta. He’d held onto third since SS12, but he just couldn’t keep Sordo at bay until the very end, and the wave of disappointment hit him hard after the Hyundai’s time through the 6.94-mile test.
“Of course, I am very disappointed [in] myself about the last stage,” Katsuta told DirtFish. “We could take very good manufacturers points for the team, but I was just not good enough, and Dani did a very, very good run.
“He was very fast on the last stage. I was just not good enough on that stage.”
But while Katsuta was naturally unhappy about the outcome, there are still positives to take from the rally.
“I am very disappointed, but this feeling makes me even stronger, so I try to [keep my] head up and try to move forward.”
He’s found his rhythm in the Yaris Rally1 car and has shown a level of consistency that few other drivers have been able to match so far this year with four top eight finishes on the bounce; two of which have ended just off the podium in fourth.
He’s been arguably one of the quickest drivers to get a handle of the new hybrid machines. The results are telling and it’s a big improvement from his struggles in the second half of last season.
“That’s true that it’s getting better and better every year,” said Katsuta. “Of course, in Croatia I was completely missing something, I mean everything basically, but I still found some confidence and feeling so this is very good.
“But I’m just lacking the pace a bit compared to Kalle [Rovanperä] and Elfyn [Evans] so I really need to learn from them and I need to improve more.”
Taka was also a bit unlucky with the weather on the Porto street stageJari-Matti Latvala on Takamoto Katsuta
Katsuta might not be wrong in that he needs to find another gear compared to his Toyota team-mates, but his performances are catching the eye of his boss, Jari-Matti Latvala, for the right reasons.
“It was absolutely a great drive from Taka, but he lost a couple of seconds to the podium, but honestly I think Dani Sordo just lifted his performance,” said Latvala.
“Taka was not driving bad because his time on the powerstage was still really good, but the factor was Dani was lifting more the performance. And then OK Taka was also a bit unlucky with the weather on the Porto street stage where he basically lost too much time, but this is motorsport and this is Portugal this happens.
“But he needs to be proud, and we are proud of his performance and the podium will come next time.”
And after producing another top four result, Latvala feels Katsuta’s development is properly back on track.
“With Taka we did great work last year. At the midpoint of the season, he had been performing superbly and getting really good points but then the second half of the season was awful, and the self-confidence was completely down as you mentioned with the accidents.
“But then he got everything together and started to pull up the performance again, and now I think he’s pushing his self-confidence. We are back in the top level.”