Practice Report: Honda Indy 200

LEXINGTON, OH Aug 1—Takuma Sato and the ABC Supply team’s first day on track was a productive one as practice opened for the Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course today under sunny skies.

Sato climbed from 12th in the morning practice to third in the afternoon session, one of five drivers who actually improved their speed from the morning.

“Today the track condition was very slippery, low grip, and felt a little greasy compared to the test day last week,” said Sato, adding, “which, by the way, we had a very productive test and we learned a lot and that showed in the result today.

“The ABC car is working really well under the tricky conditions. Tomorrow will be tricky weather-wise but by Sunday for sure, the whole track will grip up and it will be a different scenario. We have been struggling a little bit on the lower grip condition on the road courses but now we are in a very good position and we’re very pleased. We’re working to continue the speed for tomorrow.”

In the afternoon session, Sato posted a speed of 121.495mph which was just eight hundredths of a second off the session’s pace setter Sebastien Bourdais’ speed of 121.639mph. Overall pacesetter was Ryan Hunter-Reay who set his quickest speed of 122.180mph in the morning session—he was sixth in the afternoon session with a speed of 121.155mph. Sato was 12th overall.

NOTES & QUOTES: Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio

Takuma Sato On:

o Mid-Ohio course: “It always reminds me of a British country’s race course… for example Oulton Park (in the U.K.). Very narrow, good elevation changes, high-speed and lots of greens with dense forest. It’s a classic! Meaning, I like it a lot. I always love driving there and I particularly enjoy the support from the fans. They are very knowledgeable and extremely enthusiastic as they sometimes even bring my F3 [2001 British Formula 3] days photos!”

o The key setup for the race: “Since it has a few long straights, it’s not necessary to run with maximum downforce but you need a good grip at the second half of the circuit which has a series of very tricky corners. So the field is mixed up with various downforce levels depending on each team’s set-up philosophy. Also this track is well known for its very changeable track conditions, in other words, it has huge track evolution. So it’s important to plan ahead rather than chase the track. That’s easy to say and difficult to do, but we try.”

o What was learned from July 24 testing at Mid-Ohio: “It was a very productive test and it was very encouraging to see that we made good progress. We have been working pretty hard to figure out the road course set-up and quite honestly, it has been a long journey to arrive at this comfortable level. We have struggled with the usage of the tires’ working range for some road courses but it looks like we managed well at our last test and now we have a good level of grips. We are always looking for improvement so this might only be the start of our new set-up, but I feel positive and optimistic about it.”

o Having a good run in Toronto (started 22nd, finished 5th): “At last! It was definitely what we needed for a long time. Now we’ll bring this good momentum and go for more good results in the last part of our season. I am very positive.”

Past performance: In four starts at Mid-Ohio, Sato’s best start was third in his first start at the track in 2010 with KV Racing and his best finish was 4th in 2011 with them. In seven appearances, the Foyt team’s best start (7th) and finish (4th) came in 2009 with Ryan Hunter-Reay who was subbing for the injured Vitor Meira that season.