The November 10 edition of Toyota Times Athletes Now featured a live studio appearance by Takamoto Katsuta, who currently competes in the WRC, the pinnacle of world rally. Besides delving into the excitement of the WRC and offering a rally driver’s take on Toyota’s strengths, “Taka” shared stories of his close relationship with “Morizo” – President Akio Toyoda.
Takamoto was raised in a family of rally drivers, from his grandfather Teruo to his father Norihiko Katsuta, an All Japan Rally champion who is frequently referred to on the show. Currently, Takamoto competes in all WRC races as an up-and-coming driver on TOYOTA GAZOO Racing’s WRC Challenge Program. He appeared on Toyota Times Athletes Now while visiting Japan ahead of the WRC’s final round in Monza, Italy, from November 18 to 21.
Takamoto is the first Japanese driver to compete fully in the WRC. When asked by host Kyonosuke Morita how he felt, Takamoto responded, “The schedule has been tough since competing full-time this year, I’m constantly jetting around and never at home. At the same time, this is a key season in my career because I have the chance to race on different terrains all over the world.”
Along with photos and video footage, on the program Takamoto offered commentary on the WRC, regarded as being “the world’s toughest roads.” Rally scenes from various countries included the Safari in Kenya and snow-covered mountains at minus 20 degrees Celsius.
Takamoto also introduced a unique training regime for keeping his mind sharp, saying, “Along with the mental and physical aspects, a rally driver must be skilled at processing information from the eyes and ears.”
Since climate, terrain, and altitude vary with each location, the WRC takes its toll on car engines and bodies, requiring big adjustments in setup. “Racing on different roads gives us a wide range of data,” says Takamoto, “which is fed back into production vehicles.” He continues: “Even with the same rally (location) every year, conditions change depending on temperature or rain the day before. The car keeps being improved not just with each rally – it evolves during a rally. It’s being built by the road.”
This season, Takamoto took second place in Round 6, the Safari Rally. When asked how it felt to stand on the podium for the first time, Takamoto recalled joy being outweighed by disappointment. It was then that he received a message from Akio, aka Morizo, with the words: “Taka! That was amazing! A touch of disappointment, but I’m thrilled!”
Takamoto was moved by the fact that Morizo shared his sense of disappointment. “I’m grateful that he always understands the driver’s feelings,” he said, voicing a determination to “bring him news of victory” in the future.
Team Principal Jari-Matti Latvala also sent in a special video message recorded for the program. “I hope we can get him in the main team in the near future. In 2023 it would be fantastic to have Taka in the top three driver lineup in our team.” The words brought a smile to Takamoto’s face.
At the TGR Rally Challenge Round 12 in Toyota City on November 7, as the event was wrapping up, Takamoto put on an impromptu demonstration with his father Norihiko in the passenger seat. As the footage played, a slightly embarrassed Takamoto recounted how Morizo suggested, ‘Why not take a spin with your dad?’”
Toyota Times Athletes Now is broadcast live every Wednesday from noon JST (in Japanese, later followed by a version with English subtitles). On the next show, racing driver Masahiro Sasaki is slated to make a guest appearance.