TOYOTA GAZOO Racing Rally Challenge Program driver Takamoto Katsuta, co-driven by Dan Barritt, has embarked on his 14-rally learning schedule this year with the oldest and most prestigious event on the calendar: Rallye Monte-Carlo.

Having concentrated on gaining experience and staying out of trouble throughout all four days, the young Japanese driver finished sixth in the R5 category and 13th overall.

Katsuta and Barritt were determined just to get to the finish and take away as much experience as possible of these tricky stages that test every aspect of a crew’s skills. The rally got underway with two stages run on Thursday night in darkness, before the longest day of the event on Friday featuring six stages, after which Katsuta and Barritt were already classified just outside the top 10 overall.

In the mixed conditions of Saturday, which featured plenty of snow and ice at altitude, the crew had two low-speed spins as they explored the limits. But this didn’t impede their progress as they powered successfully to the finish, having taken on board many useful lessons throughout the 16 stages and 323.83 competitive kilometres.

There was plenty for the crew to learn: Katsuta and Barritt were competing together for the first time since 2016, while it was the first time for Katsuta on Rallye Monte-Carlo. As a result, it was also the first time that Katsuta had worked with safety crews – in the form of Jarkko Miettinen and Mikko Markkula.

“This rally was very tricky for me, especially as it was the first time driving here – I was only a spectator before,” said Katsuta. “But we survived and learned a lot, which was the main thing. Our aim was just to get to the finish and learn, no more than that. I wanted to get the confidence, and the feeling and the experience here. I didn’t really care about the speed. We achieved our target, and so I think the next time will be a lot easier for us. Thank you to Dan, Jarkko and Mikko for their help and their experience. On Saturday we had two spins, but slow speed so nothing too serious: the roads were very slippery. Tyre choice was one of the most difficult things about this rally, as you really never know what the right decision is but luckily, we had very good advice and I felt I was getting better all the time. It’s a very special rally, this is for certain. I don’t think there’s anywhere else like Monte-Carlo.”

“I think that Taka did a very, very good job on his first Rallye Monte-Carlo,” added TOYOTA GAZOO Racing boss Tommi Mäkinen. “Completing such a difficult event with no major problems will really increase his confidence and experience going forwards. You can really learn a lot here if you manage to do the full distance like Taka did. I’m sure that the experience of this weekend will benefit him already in Sweden, which is of course a much more familiar challenge for him.”

Takamoto Katsuta and Dan Barritt wear Stilo WRC DES Zero 8860 helmets.

Solid 2019 WRC start for Katsuta in Monte-Carlo Solid 2019 WRC start for Katsuta in Monte-Carlo