Race Report: Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. April 26—Takuma Sato and Jack Hawksworth drove their hearts out in the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama Sunday afternoon but the results won’t show that.

Starting side by side in row 10, the drivers set out to gain what they could after a tough day in qualifying. They began by gaining several spots in the opening laps. Around lap 15 of the 90-lap race, some cars began pitting early in their fuel window. However, the ABC Supply Hondas were running competitive laps and the team kept them out because they were catching the cars ahead.

That’s when the first hammer dropped.

As Will Power exited the pits on lap 19, Sato was running 11th and approaching Turn 1. Power, who didn’t see Sato or was trying to beat him to the corner—on cold tires no less—collided with Sato, damaging the nose.

“I had the collision with Will which looked like he didn’t see me when I was already committed into the turn,” said Sato afterwards. “He just came out of the pit and we were side by side and I tried to avoid him but it was not possible. He is the last guy I would want to hit out there.”

Officials penalized Power for avoidable contact, and when Power saw the replay after the race, he made a point to apologize to Sato for the incident. Debris from the accident brought out the first of two cautions and everyone pitted. Power took his drive-through-pitlane penalty after the race restarted.

Hawksworth got a good restart and began working his way through the field and moved into the top five when he didn’t pit during the second caution period [laps 34-38] for the accident between Stefano Coletti and James Jakes.

When Hawksworth pitted just past halfway (under green), he dropped back to 21st but again as stops began cycling through, he moved up to 11th.  His final stop on lap 65 proved his undoing as a broken air gun resulted in an extra-long stop. The gains he’d made evaporated, and he rejoined the field in 21st which is where he finished.

Qualifying Report: Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. April 25—Jack Hawksworth and Takuma Sato will start side-by-side in the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama at the picturesque Barber Motorsport Park tomorrow afternoon.

Hawksworth will start 19th after posting a time of 1 minute, 8.0082 seconds in the No. 41 ABC Supply Honda, Sato will start 20th after posting a time of 1 minute, 8.2541 seconds in the No. 14 ABC Supply Honda.

“Not a good day, we obviously struggled a lot for speed,” said Hawksworth. “We just have to keep our heads down and see why really. We need to understand what the change has been since St. Pete and the pre-season testing. Hopefully we can find out what’s going on.”

“In qualifying, the car didn’t feel bad--it was balanced--but we just weren’t quick enough to transfer,” said Sato. “It was disappointing but hopefully we can improve for tomorrow.”

The teams will have a 30-minute final practice session tomorrow morning. The race, broadcast live on NBC Sports Network starting at 3 p.m. ET, will also be broadcast live on XM satellite radio’s ch. 209, Sirius 212 and the IMS Radio Network.

Helio Castroneves won his second straight Verizon P1 award in his AAA Insurance Chevy for topping the Firestone Fast Six session with a time of 1 minute, 7.1925 seconds.  His teammates Will Power and Simon Pagenaud were second and third quickest. Scott Dixon, Josef Newgarden, and Tony Kanaan rounded out the top six.

Notes & Quotes: Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama

Takuma Sato: No. 14 ABC Supply Honda

Jack Hawksworth: No. 41 ABC Supply Honda

TAKUMA SATO ON:

Physicality of Barber track: “Barber is one of the toughest tracks physically in the calendar, simply because it’s a high-speed track, and has lots of long high-G corners compared to the other road courses. It’ll be really physically demanding. With the new aero kits generating more downforce, as you witness we have been quicker at all of the tracks we visit, I’m sure we will see this race is a seriously physical one.”

Passing Zones: “Probably not much has changed there. Even though you have more downforce now, following the other cars is not necessarily easy. In fact it’s pretty hard because all the wings and bodywork are more aero-efficient so any turbulence upsets the airflow which means you lose downforce.  Having said that, Honda designed the bodywork which minimizes the effect of losing downforce when you follow a car, so let’s hope we will be in good shape in traffic.”

Most enjoyable part of going to Barber: “The high-speed corners with good elevation changes. This is really a beautiful track and it’s dynamic so I enjoy going fast there. And don’t forget to go to the museum! It’s also another one of the best car and motorbike museums in the country. It is very impressive especially as it’s privately owned.”

Focusing on aero or mechanical grip: “You will always need a good mechanical grip but at Barber there is more weight on aero. The track surface is smooth and very fast so it is quite an aero-dominant track. Barber is the type of track that you go fast with a more aero-efficient car.”

Key to success at Barber: “As described above, you need to get the aero right without sacrificing mechanical grip too much, and then it’s really important to have a good qualifying run as it’s very difficult to overtake.”


JACK HAWKSWORTH ON:

His feelings about Barber: “I have a love/hate relationship with this track. I have won and been on the podium here three times in the junior formula but I've also had some pretty tough days where I've just not been on the pace. It's one of the trickiest circuits on the calendar for drivers and engineers. Nailing the set-up is a big challenge, if you hit it right then there are not many more enjoyable circuits to drive, but if you are out to lunch, it'll be a long afternoon!”

Key to a competitive car at Barber: “We had a positive test here prior to the opening race of the year and we learned a lot at the recent NOLA race which was the last permanent road course we went to. Understanding why we were competitive at the test and also why we weren't competitive at NOLA should give us a good understanding of where we need to go with the set up and the best way to react to the changing track conditions throughout the weekend.”

Best place to pass: “Turn 5 is the prime overtaking spot at Barber. It's not easy and you need to have a good car off Turns 2 and 3 to allow for a good run through the kink and into the braking zone in 5. It's possible to pass in other places but it's very difficult and it usually involves the car ahead making a mistake.”

Physicality of Barber: “Barber has some quick turns with a lot of compression so it will certainly be tougher than the tracks we've been to so far this year. The Turns 12, 13, 14, and 15 works the drivers pretty hard.”

Texas or ‘Bama Barbecue: “Texas, purely on the basis I've not tried Barbecue in Alabama! Maybe I'll give it a go if we have a good weekend!”

Kinnucan’s, Specialty Outfitter, headquartered in Auburn, Ala. has signed as an associate team sponsor for the Indy Grand Prix of Louisiana. Started in 1987 by Charles Anthony Kinnucan as a running footwear company, Kinnucan’s expanded its product selection over the past 20 years to include cold and warm weather apparel, sunglasses, collegiate goods and women’s fashion. Kinnucan’s now has 13 locations across four states: Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia and Tennessee.