Toyota youngsters set for Finland debut

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Hiroki Arai (left) and Takamoto Katsuta (center) will be racing for the first time in the World Rally Championship at the Neste Rally Finland.  WRC.COM

Hiroki Arai (left) and Takamoto Katsuta (center) will be racing for the first time in the World Rally Championship at the Neste Rally Finland. WRC.COM

Toyota development drivers Takamoto Katsuta and Hiroki Arai are set to make their debuts in the World Rally Championship (WRC) at the Neste Rally Finland on July 29 to August 1.

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The young Japanese pair are being nurtured by Tommi Mäkinen Racing in Finland under the Toyota Gazoo Racing Challenge Program. They will be entered in the RC2 class and go head-to-head against leading WRC 2 contenders such as Esapekka Lappi and possibly Elfyn Evans.

Both 23-year-old Katsuta and 22-year-old Arai will step up to Ford Fiesta R5 cars from the Subaru WRXs they have driven in their campaigns in the Finnish Championship this season.

Both will continue in the Finnish series and will also tackle the European Championship’s Rally Estonia encounter a fortnight before their WRC debuts.

Arai has fared best in the three winter rallies this year. He took an outstanding third at January’s Arctic Lapland Rally and Toyota Gazoo team principal Mäkinen, who will lead the Japanese manufacturer’s WRC return in 2017, is pleased with their development.

“I’m happy to report that Katsuta and Arai have progressed markedly compared to when they started the program. They still need more experience as rally drivers, but in coaching them over the last 10 months, I’m convinced that they have the potential for further growth,” he said.

“The instructor team is going to be doing everything it can to maximize their abilities and skills,” said Mäkinen, whose long-term goal is to see the Japanese pair progress to a World Rally Car role with Toyota.

THE TIMES

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