Relax and rebound: Latvala's key advice for Takamoto Katsuta's WRC breakthrough

Relax and rebound: Latvala's key advice for Takamoto Katsuta's WRC breakthrough

Festus Chuma 10:16 - 18.05.2024

Jari-Matti Latvala advises Takamoto Katsuta to maintain a relaxed mindset throughout rally weekends to secure his first WRC win.

Several crashes and close calls have left Takamoto Katsuta wondering what it takes to secure his first win in the World Rally Championship. 

After crashing out of the lead battle at Rally Portugal, Toyota Gazoo team principal Jari-Matti Latvala offers a straightforward answer: relax.

The 2024 season has been a roller-coaster for the Japanese driver. Katsuta's promising start in Sweden was abruptly halted by a snowbank. 

However, he made a remarkable comeback at the Safari Rally Kenya, finishing second. His impressive form continued into the Croatia Rally, where he secured maximum Super Sunday points.

Katsuta's potential was evident on Friday in Portugal as he led after the opening loop of stages and ended the day just five seconds off the rally lead, showing momentum and promise.

 Unfortunately, this momentum was short-lived. During Saturday's 23-mile Amarante stage, Katsuta clipped a stone wall and broke his rear suspension, ending his race prematurely.

Despite the setbacks, Latvala remains optimistic about Katsuta's capabilities. 

“I think what we see in Taka is clearly that on Friday he is able to be in the lead,” Latvala said as per DirtFish.

 “I think with that step he has shown he has the potential. He is capable of driving against the other drivers.”

Latvala attributes Katsuta's issues not to a lack of ability, but to a mental struggle. 

“I think it’s not about the skills – Taka has the skills,” he explained. 

“It goes more to the mental side because the situation that when you think where you are, the pressure you put more on yourself on the next day of the rally. If you know that you are in third position and you can win it, it’s the pressure that you start to take to yourself.”

Pressure should not have been a significant factor during the Portugal rally. 

With Sebastien Ogier and Kalle Rovanpera also competing, Katsuta had the freedom to focus solely on his performance without the added pressure of scoring points for Toyota. 

Latvala believes the key to Katsuta's success lies in maintaining the relaxed approach that enables him to perform exceptionally well on Fridays throughout the entire weekend. 

“If we can maintain that relaxed feeling that he has on Friday,” he said, “that is the target and then probably we can bring it to the end of the Saturday. And then you have the third step on Sunday.”

Katsuta's journey in the 2024 season highlights his potential and the challenges he faces. 

His ability to lead rallies and compete with top drivers like Ogier and Rovanpera is evident. 

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