TOYOTA GAZOO Racing Rally Challenge Program drivers continue their learning curve on snow

TOYOTA GAZOO Racing Rally Challenge Program drivers continue their learning curve on snow

13.02.2017: ...at WRC Rally Sweden TOYOTA GAZOO Racing Rally Challenge Program drivers Takamoto

...at WRC Rally Sweden


TOYOTA GAZOO Racing Rally Challenge Program drivers Takamoto Katsuta and Hiroki Arai faced only the second world championship rally of their young careers over the weekend, on the highly-specialised snow of Rally Sweden.
 



The four-day event, taking in 18 stages and 331.74 competitive kilometres, provided the young Japanese drivers with a chance not only to practise their driving skills and pacenotes, but also to acclimatise to the fatigue and concentration needed to master a top-level world event.



The drivers were each at the wheel of a Ford Fiesta R5, meaning that they were competing in the WRC2 category: just one rank below the leading World Rally Car class. Against some of the best drivers in this category in the world, Hiroki finished seventh in class while Takamoto was ninth.



Both drivers had their adventures, but they brought two unblemished cars to the finish and continued to learn about what it takes to drive on snow, having successfully completed the Arctic Lapland Rally in Finland last month.



In Sweden, however, they were driving on wider world championship specification snow tyres, rather than the narrow tyres allowed on the Finnish championship.



As a result they had to learn to judge the grip that was available all over again, which meant that on occasions they got closer to the snow banks that they had reckoned for. The other challenges posed by the tricky Rally Sweden route included avoiding punctures and making sure that the studs stayed within the tyres.



Both drivers made some mistakes, but guided by their experienced co-drivers — Glenn Macneall for Hiroki and Marko Salminen for Takamoto — they got to the end of one of the most demanding rallies they have ever faced with plenty of valuable lessons learned for the future.





Quotes:


Takamoto Katsuta:
“This has been another very educational rally! On Friday we had a puncture and we also lost all the studs from the tyres on the last two stages: this made the driving very difficult.



Saturday was probably our best day, then we struggled a little bit on the last day as those were actually the first stages that we did on the recce, so our pacenotes were not as good as they could have been.



 But I am very happy: it was only my second rally with my new co-driver Marko Salminen and the relationship is very good. We are having a fantastic time and learning a lot.”



Hiroki Arai: “
There are many lessons I will take away from this rally, especially that it is important not to overdrive: sometimes when you try to drive faster, you actually end up going slower. We had a few things go wrong during the rally: two spins, some punctures and a broken suspension arm.



Maybe this was not so good for making progress up the leader board, but it was good for learning! In the end I could relax and set some quite good times by driving naturally. I’m beginning to feel a little more confident now so this was a great experience.”



Jouni Ampuja (TOYOTA GAZOO Racing Rally Challenge Program instructor):
“We’re happy with the progress that our drivers have made in Sweden, and we’re especially happy to see two cars at the finish in the same good condition as they started!



 Both drivers are improving all the time, helped by their co-drivers, and fulfilling the objectives that we have set for them. Given their lack of experience it was inevitable that there would be some trips into the snow banks in Sweden and a lack of consistency, but it is only by experiencing mistakes that you learn not to make them.



Sweden was also very important on the mental side. It was a long and tough rally and it taught our young drivers to keep focused even in these very difficult and tiring conditions.”




WRC2 Results:




1    Pontus Tidemand/Jonas Andersson (Skoda Fabia R5)    2:45:14.7

2    Teemu Suninen/Mikko Markkula (Ford Fiesta R5)    2:46:06.5

3    Ole Christian Veiby/Stig Rune Skjaermoen (Skoda Fabia R5)     2:46:32.3

4    Eric Camilli/Benjamin Veillas (Ford Fiesta R5)    2:48:27.1

5    Gus Greensmith/Craig Parry (Ford Fiesta R5)    2:50:25.5

7    Hiroki Arai/Glenn Macneall (Ford Fiesta R5)    2:52:01.6

9    Takamoto Katsuta/Marko Salminen (Ford Fiesta R5)    2:58:42.1

 



What’s next?




The focus of the young driver program now switches to asphalt when Hiroki and Takamoto tackle the first round of the Italian Rally Championship, the Rally Il Ciocco from March 16-19. This time, they will be at the wheel of less powerful Ford Fiesta R2 cars.



The Rally Il Ciocco runs through the hills of Tuscany, featuring roads that can often be slippery and even icy, as well as plenty of local experts who are very familiar with them.




- Stephan Lesuisse, photos Toyota

Permanent-URL: http://www.automobilsport.com/toyota-gazoo-racing-rally-challenge-program-drivers-sweden-rally---160766.html

13.02.2017 / MaP

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