Toyota GAZOO Racing uses motorsports as a way to push Toyota to make ever-better cars, while promoting activities that spread the joy of driving. To that end, the Toyota GAZOO Racing Challenge Program was launched in 2015 to help train young Japanese rally drivers to make their mark on the world in the hopes of further spreading the joy of motorsports and racing. Both Katsuta and Arai went through a highly competitive selection process to take part in a Europe-based training program under instructors from Tommi Makinen Racing(2).
The 2016 season kicked off with the drivers honing their driving skills on the icy roads of arctic Finland and entering the first, second, and third rounds of the Finnish Rally Championship. During the Arctic Lapland Rally in round one, Arai made headlines with his outstanding performance, taking on highly experienced local drivers to place second in his class and third overall.
At the completion of their winter training, Toyota GAZOO Racing decided that the two drivers were progressing well enough to advance from the R4 vehicle group to the R5 vehicle group and undergo a more rigorous training program for their summer session, which will begin in May. As part of this training, Katsuta and Arai plan to continue competing in the Finnish Rally Championship while also joining the auto24 Rally Estonia (the sixth round of the FIA European Rally Championships) in mid-July and the eighth round of the World Rally Championship at the end of July.
(1) C2 is just one rank below RC1, which is the highest of the six WRC vehicle classes.
(2) Tommi Makinen is the team principal of the Toyota GAZOO Racing WRC team. Makinen is a luminary of the sport with extensive experience, having won 24 WRC rallies over the course of his career and four consecutive WRC driver’s titles from 1996 to 1999.