Contents (excerpt) of the event conference held after the finish of the WRC Safari. Katsuta, who appeared at the press conference on the podium for the first time, revealed that he had been suffering from poor physical condition from the beginning of the rally week, and thanked the people around him for the result of overcoming it and winning.
● Attendees at the press conference after the WRC event
Sebastien Ogier = SO (Toyota Gazou Racing WRT)
Takamoto Katsuta = TK (Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT)
Ott Tänak = OT (Hyundai Motorsport)
Jari-Matti Latvala = JML (Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT Team Representative)
Q: Congratulations on winning the weekend like Sebastian and Roller Coaster. The smiles of you and Julian tell you everything, but please tell us how you felt when you finished.
SO:To be honest, I was relieved. The final stage was very challenging. I was heading to the course without knowing at all whether there were rocks on the line or what the conditions would be. I didn’t overdo it on this stage, I just wanted to finish it. It was a very crazy weekend and everyone expected it to be an interesting weekend, and in fact it did. A lot of things happened. First of all, I had some trouble at a very early stage, and after that I did a great job and gradually approached the top. I expected it to be closer to the podium, but I didn’t expect to win.
Q: Was it a tougher challenge than you expected, or did you think it would happen?
SO:I couldn’t imagine. I thought it would be something different and tougher than usual. Besides, I had to face things that I had never experienced before. It’s not easy. Overall, I’m happy with the flow this weekend. It was hard to prepare for this rally. The team also prepared a great machine. Toyota played an active part this weekend. I think we were able to add another stone to the milestones that Toyota has built.
Q: Takamoto, welcome to the first WRC podium. How do you feel about being here?
TK:I’m very happy. It’s a special feeling just after a tough and long weekend. At the beginning of the week, I was sick and had some food, so I was sick. But now I’m here. I can be here because all the people around me have helped and supported me. I am grateful to everyone who made me stand in this place.
Q: Wasn’t the challenge tougher when you were feeling sick? It’s not a very happy situation.
TK:I couldn’t get up on Recce’s day. Physio and the staff healed me. There were no problems during the rally, I was 100% focused and there were no major problems.
Q: I couldn’t make the best tire choice on the last day. There were not enough fresh compound soft tires. Did you regret it?
TK:Of course, it’s best to have the same options as Cebu, but for the last two days, what I did caused more damage to the tires. This point must be learned from Cebu. He always manages the tires very well. This is one of the most important factors for a rally.
Q: Oit, please tell us about your challenge to the Safari Rally. I got points in today’s power stage, so I think it worked in that sense.
OT:I think Friday and Sunday were really good in terms of the challenges expected in safari. It entertained the driver and I really enjoyed this challenge. It’s unusual in a calendar to add a little spice to an event. That’s why it was so interesting. It was a lot of fun.
Q: It was a pity that the windshield on the driver’s side was cloudy and time was lost due to a storm on Saturday evening. Wasn’t it really disappointing?
OT:Saturday was a pretty smooth day, although there are times when things can’t be helped. He was cautious, took no risks, and kept in mind that he would finish without problems. Overall, I think it was a smooth and drama-free day.
Q: Do you think this rally should be fixed to the WRC calendar?
OT:If it’s Saturday, I think it’s okay to be a little more challenging, but Friday and Sunday were pretty challenging. I think there is a frame for safari.
Q: Jari-Matti, Toyota’s 1-2 finish for the fourth time in the season. Was it a demanding event as expected?
JML:When I did the recce, I realized that it was like an old safari rally. The only difference is that the stage is short and the course is closed. There have been many dramas and many things happened at this event. It’s a challenge and an adventure for the driver. I thought I wanted to drive. After touching on the essence of the rally and finally winning the rally, Takamoto is really happy to be in second place, his first podium. As of Friday, I was wondering if I could get one on the podium, but in the end I think the durability and consistency, and the drivers’ attitude of never giving up, paid off.
Q: Next is Estonia, a super-fast rally. What kind of plan do you have? Will there be any changes?
JML:Performance wasn’t enough last year. Oit was terribly strong and will definitely be strong this year. We have already tested it and are preparing and learning to improve the machine. It can be said that it works better on both wide and narrow roads. The test results were very good. I am confident towards Estonia. However, we know that the battle for victory will be tough. At least we did everything we could.
Question from the press seat
Tom Howard (Autosport, UK)
Q: Should Safari be permanently on the WRC calendar?
SO:The president himself actually announced that on the podium. I want to say “yes”. The WRC needs diversity, which was shown this weekend and was definitely entertaining. Many people were enjoying the rally this weekend. It was very different from usual, and there were some interesting points. And I was very happy to see the enthusiasm of the locals. After a long corona bruise, I hadn’t seen the audience for a while, so this week was a lot of fun. I saw an incredible crowd in the road section.
Jose Luis Abreu (Autosport, Portugal)
Q: On social media, many people refer to you as the “luckiest driver.” What kind of efforts are you making to get “luck”?
SO:I don’t even know how to get lucky for many years. I hope I’m lucky to the end. Luck is also part of the sport. Of course, effort and talent are also required. I couldn’t say I was on Friday morning because I had some trouble, but the weekends after that were fine.
Q: Are you happy enough to be in 2nd place, or are you disappointed that you couldn’t win?
TK:I’m a driver, so it would be great if I could win. Don’t forget that it’s the first WRC podium in my life. I have never been in this position at the WRC. I told myself that it wasn’t time to fight Cebu. Of course I want to fight him in the future. There is much more to learn and improve before fighting Cebu.
SO:Taka is very humble, but I want to give him a big applause. He had a great performance this weekend. No other driver is better suited to share this podium. I want to rejoice with him for this result.
Q: You’ve had some trouble in Portugal. Was what happened in Sardinia just unlucky, or was the team urgently required to respond?
OT:I’m guessing that something physical that has nothing to do with luck has happened. It’s important to know that. It’s important to understand why this happened. Of course, the team is working hard to bring out more performance, and the performance is visible. Sometimes things don’t go our way, but we do.
Eric Dupin (Belgium)
Q: As a Belgian journalist, I was very disappointed that I happened to Thierry Neuville. I pay tribute to winning 4 out of 6 races. The same thing happened in 2016. The 8th world title is just around the corner, and you’re in great shape, but are you still thinking about retiring? It will continue for many more years.
SO:8th title … It’s still in the middle of the season, so please calm down. We were able to get off to a very good start of the season with 4 wins out of 6 races. At the moment, the competitiveness of the championship is very high, so I think we have reached a very good point. I’m very happy, but I have different life priorities and different future plans. Whatever the outcome of the rally, my feelings will not change. That said, I’ll do my best to win the title for the eighth time. It’s been very good for the first half of the season, but there’s still the other half. I still have to get points. We have to keep going in this way. I’m looking forward to the end of the season. This machine is great to drive and I really enjoy it. We have to maintain the current momentum.
● Attendees at the press conference after the WRC3 event
Onker Lai = OR (Volkswagen Polo GTI R5, Kenya)
Drew Starlock = DS (Volkswagen Polo GTI R5, UK)
Q: What is the difference between the rally that you have participated in so far and the safari rally?
OR:I was talking to Drew on the car. It’s been four years since I completed the safari last time, but this time I think it’s definitely the toughest and best rally. It was a great event and it was really tough. As a local driver, I’ve never seen such a condition before. It’s a pity that the top drivers were in trouble one after another. I also heard that the car was squeezed and I couldn’t use the chassis for the next event. Next time I will prepare more carefully. I was happy that the works team was in full force, and all the top drivers were gentlemen. Takamoto is especially loved by everyone. He is a very respectable person. I wish he had won, but Cebu is standing by now. I think Taka will win soon.