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Toyota selects three new WRC junior recruits

Toyota has revealed three new recruits to its World Rally Championship young driver programme, it hopes will follow in the footsteps of Takamoto Katsuta.

Hikaru Kogure, Nao Otake, Yuki Yamamoto, Toyota Gazoo Racing WRC Challenge Program

The reigning world champion squad has selected three young Japanese rally talents in Hikaru Kogure (20), Nao Otake (21) and Yuki Yamamoto (24) to join the initiative which aims to promote a young Japanese driver to its WRC team.

Toyota began the programme in 2015, with it biggest success story being Katsuta, who has since progressed to drive Toyota's fourth WRC entry in 2020, before contesting a full season last year. The 28-year-old single-seater convert ended the season seventh in the championship, his best result a second place finish at the Safari Rally.

Toyota opened applications for new junior recruits in August last year receiving 60 applicants that were whittled down to eight, who were chosen to take part in a two-week training camp in Finland, where they were assessed behind the wheel of GR Yaris road cars, crosskarts and two-wheel drive Rally4 cars,

From there, Toyota's chief instructor and four-time WRC runner-up, Mikko Hirvonen, selected the successful candidates Kogure, Otake and Yamamoto. The trio, who have been contesting rallies in Japan, will now start their first week of training as Challenge Program drivers, focused on pacenote making and further Rally4 driving.

They will relocate from Japan to Finland at the beginning of April to commence an intense full-time training schedule.

"We tried to select the drivers who we felt have the most potential for the future, but it was not an easy decision to make," said Hirvonen.

"The three drivers we've chosen showed good determination to learn and make progress in their careers.

"They also impressed us with how much they improved within the two weeks, how they absorbed the information from the instructors and how they handled different situations under pressure.

"We believe they can have a really bright future in rallying. Now the real hard work begins for them but I'm sure they are ready for the challenge."

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