Takamoto Katsuta will drive a Toyota Yaris WRC on this weekend’s Rally Germany – and it’s not just a momentous occasion for the young Japanese driver, as it’s also an important step in Rally Japan securing its place in the FIA World Rally Championship calendar.

Having a top local driver is one of the key requirements of the WRC promoters – and it’s one of the reasons why Rally Germany’s continued position in the series remains in doubt. So having a Japanese driver in a World Rally Car on a regular basis might go a long way in cementing Rally Japan’s place as the final round of the 2020 WRC series.

Co-driven by Dan Barritt, Katsuta has come up through the TOYOTA GAZOO Racing Rally Challenge Program, which supports young drivers competing in the tough global arena of rallying. He has competed on seven WRC2 rounds in a Fiesta R5, claiming one victory, on Rally Chile. In addition, he scored two wins from two starts in the Finnish Rally Championship with the Yaris WRC, and has been steadily improving.

Considering Katsuta’s growth in the first half of this season, the planned activity for the second half of the season has now been revised – with him driving a Tommi Mäkinen Racing entered Yaris WRC in Germany and at Rally Spain, with the goal of continuing his WRC driver development at the very highest level.

“First of all, I would like to thank everyone who has supported me,” says Katsuta. “Since I switched to rallying four years ago, I have worked hard to be world rally champion in the future. There have been many good moments, but also frustrating ones. Now, I can take a big step forward with support from many people around me. However, I have not yet reached my end goal: I'm just standing on the start line. I am gaining valuable experience step-by-step in the Yaris WRC. I will develop myself consistently, rally-by-rally, to fight in the top category in the near future. I still have so much to do to make my dream come true, but I am sure I can make it. Thank you in advance for your strong support.”

“Takamoto has made some big steps already this year,” adds Mäkinen. “In his WRC2 program, he has shown very good progress with his driving and his consistency. He also handled his first rallies in the Yaris WRC in the Finnish championship very well. Because of this, we are sure that he is ready to make the next step up already. We waited to finalise his programme for the end of the season, to see how he was progressing, and it is great that we can already add these two events in a World Rally Car in the world championship. We know that these will be very challenging rallies – Takamoto has no experience of competing in Germany, and Spain is tough as it’s a mixed-surface event. So we are not setting any targets in terms of results: the main priority will be for him to continue learning and to develop his driving.”

This year’s Rallye Deutschland contains 19 stages over 344.04kms and it begins with a new twist, as the 5.2km “St. Wendeler Land” Shakedown is then run again on Thursday evening as the first competitive stage. Friday’s loop consists of a pair of vineyard stages, plus the Wadern-Weikirchen circuit test, with all three run twice. Saturday’s format offers two Saarland country lane stages to be run twice in the morning, ahead of two loops around Baumholder in the afternoon. On Sunday, the rally returns to the vineyards for another pair of repeated stages to conclude the event.

Takamoto Katsuta and Dan Barritt wear STILO WRC DES ZERO 8860 helmets.

Takamoto Katsuta will drive a Toyota Yaris WRC on this weekend’s Rally Germany. FIA World Rally Championship, WRC, Japan