NOTES & QUOTES: Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama

Takuma Sato On:

o Barber Motorsport Park and whether it is reminiscent of F-1 circuits he has raced on: “Barber is a great track. It is not necessarily similar to the recent F1 tracks but it reminds me of a good classic circuit like a miniature of Imola in San Marino or Brands Hatch in the U.K. which is a narrow track, flowing high speed corners with good elevation change and lots of beautiful greens and trees. I like this sort of challenging track.”

o The Open Test at Barber last month: “The test went well; we tried a couple of test items which we didn't try last year and some things the team studied well over the winter. It is always nice to see the improvement on the car; we need to develop improvements all the time. Sometimes the race weekends become a different scenario, so even if you had a positive result from the test, we need a good analysis from the data to be able to apply it for different conditions we may face for the race.  Our test was proactive so I feel confident that we will have a strong performance.”

o The key to success at Barber: “A good platform control is required for the aerodynamics as Barber is one of the fastest road courses we race on. There are some long corners that make it difficult to get balance right as we need to address both the understeer level and stability [in the rear].”

o The difference between the US Grand Prix F-1 circuit (finished 3rd in 2004) and the Grand Prix of Indianapolis circuit which he will test on April 30th: “The biggest difference is F1 used banking in the opposite direction at the last corner (the 500’s Turn 1) and it was somewhat iconic; I really did enjoy it. The IndyCar road course eliminated that corner and will use the extra complex in the infield of Turns 1 and 2 as the final part of the track which I haven’t driven. So it will be different but I am looking forward to it very much.”

o His post-race dinner at a Long Beach restaurant specializing in hot wings: “Well, that was a very interesting off-track private activity. I had been invited to go for hot wings by a good friend from ABC Supply since last year and we finally made it. I have experienced some hot food--Japanese, Korean and Indian--but that thing was beyond all. It was tasty but way too hot and it gave me unbearable pain all over my mouth! [He had to sign a waiver before eating it]. However, I did enjoy the laugh and had a fun time sharing it with my fan club tour members [who accompanied him] and friends. It was a very unique experience but maybe one time is enough!”

o The last race at Long Beach: “It was a very disappointing end for us but there was a good positive too. We had struggled up until qualifying but found competitiveness on Sunday which was great. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to deliver a result but we came close and that is racing so we shall keep on pushing. The race was a bit too wild overall but I guess it was an exciting event for fans.”

Race Report: Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach

LONG BEACH, Calif. April 13, 2014—The Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach had all the makings of a Cinderella story for Takuma Sato and the ABC Supply team.

A disappointing qualifying run, a collision on the opening lap which dropped Sato from 15th to 20th, and an early pit stop to replace the damaged nose assembly all combined to make his chances of success look slim. By lap seven of the 80-lap event, he was running last and a lap down to the top three leaders.

Sato and the ABC Supply team battled back. Good strategy and even better pit stops (their final one was a cool 7.45 seconds) and they were on their way to a top-10 finish in the ABC Supply Honda. But a lap and four turns later is when the glass slipper turned out not to fit.

After a round of green flag pit stops, pole sitter Ryan Hunter-Reay, who had led 51 laps before the pit stop cycle began, came up on Josef Newgarden in Turn 3. Newgarden, who had moved into third on lap 32, ran there behind Hunter-Reay and James Hinchcliffe until pitting on lap 55. Exiting the pits on cold tires ahead of Hunter-Reay, Newgarden and Hunter-Reay made contact entering  Turn 4 and Hinchcliffe piled in with no place to go. Although a couple cars sliced their way through, Sato was close on the heels of Carlos Munoz who barely missed the carnage. Sato nearly squeezed through but clipped Newgarden’s car and the impact tore off the left front suspension of the No. 14.

“Unfortunately, when I turned into Turn 4 there were three cars tangled together and it was in the middle of the racing line and the middle of the track. I couldn't avoid it. I clipped the 67 car and that was the end of our race. A very disappointing finish and we could have finished very high, but I hope we can transport the positives to the next round,” Sato said. 

QUALIFYING REPORT – Long Beach Grand Prix

LONG BEACH, Calif. April 12, 2014—This year’s qualifying round for the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach was surprising as quite a few faces are in unfamiliar places. Takuma Sato will start 15th in the No. 14 ABC Supply Honda tomorrow.

Sato will be starting directly behind Tony Kanaan and Will Power, and alongside of Juan Pablo Montoya, all of whom failed to transfer out of the first round of qualifying.

“Tough qualifying session,” said Sato. “We made progress over the two days but just not enough. It’s quite a mixture of a grid so whether it was conditions or not, I don’t know. We tried our best but not going through the Q-1 qualifying round was disappointing. We shall work hard for final practice and hopefully we will have a strong package for the race.”

Sato’s two quickest laps were taken away when race officials decided he interfered with Ryan Hunter-Reay’s qualifying run in the first round. Sato explained, “We  both started on blacks [tires], but I pitted a lap earlier for the red tires. After warming up on my red tires, I was just starting my qualifying lap and he was on charge finishing his lap on blacks. Unfortunately we came close in the very last sector where the timing line is. I didn’t feel it would affect him on his lap time but they decided to penalize me.”

The penalty did not affect his starting position.

Hunter-Reay advanced through both rounds to win the Verizon P-1 Pole Award. Teammate James Hinchcliffe shares the front row. Sebastian Bourdais, Josef Newgarden, Jacks Hawksworth and Simon Pagenaud rounded out the Firestone Fast Six.

The ABC Supply team has a final warm-up session tomorrow morning. The 80-lap race will be televised live on NBC Sports Network starting at 4:00 p.m. ET.