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Japanese rally rookies complete their Finnish debut

The newest Toyota Gazoo Racing WRC Challenge Program recruits Takumi Matsushita and Shotaro Goto successfully completed their first event at the Pohjanmaa Ralli, a round of the Finnish Rally Championship, on June 14-15.

Matsushita and Goto were selected at the end of 2023 as the third generation of drivers to join the program, and moved to Finland earlier this year to begin full-time training with instructors from TOYOTA GAZOO Racing World Rally Team.

Both drivers had limited prior motorsport experience in Japan: for Goto, the Pohjanmaa Ralli would be his first ever rally, while Matsushita had previously started one rally in Japan. Each has been paired with an experienced Finnish co-driver and working with them to develop their pacenote skills, while also testing in the two-wheel drive Renault Clio Rally4 cars they will be driving in their first rallies.

The Pohjanmaa Ralli is a typical Finnish gravel rally held on fast roads in the west of the country around the city of Seinäjoki. There were nine stages totalling 123.53 competitive kilometres, with only one of the stages driven twice, meaning crews had a lot of new pacenotes to write during reconnaissance before the rally got underway.

With the aim to complete all of the stages and gain as much experience as possible, both drivers made a solid start on the opening loop of three stages on Friday evening, and continued that into Saturday’s two loops of three stages. Despite changeable conditions, they would complete the full distance without major issues, with Matsushita and his co-driver Pekka Kelander finishing eighth in the SM3 class and Goto and his navigator Jussi Lindberg just one place behind.

Goto and Matsushita will continue their training on Finnish roads ahead of their next competitive event at the HYAcenter Rally on July 26-27. Based in Tampere, this event is run on classic Finnish rally roads and is often used by top teams and drivers as preparation for Rally Finland.