KV Racing Technology – Lotus geared up for final event in Japan and first on the Twin Ring Motegi road course
INDIANAPOLIS, INDIANA – SEPTEMBER 13, 2011 – KV Racing Technology – Lotus drivers Tony Kanaan, Takuma Sato and E. J. Viso head to Japan for the final event in the land of the rising sun, the Indy Japan 300, September 16-18, at Twin Ring Motegi in Motegi, Tochigi, Japan.
The IndyCar Series, which will not return to Japan in 2012, will compete on the 2.983-mile, 14-turn TRM permanent road course, for the first time. It has competed on the Twin Ring Motegi oval since 2003.
Kanaan, No. 82 GEICO – KV Racing Technology – Lotus, is coming off an unbelievable performance in Baltimore. After qualifying 11th, he was involved in a horrific crash during the race day warm-up, which required the team two switch to the backup car and therefore, by rule, moved Kanaan to the back of the grid. Employing a solid race strategy and getting outstanding pit work from his GEICO – KVRT – Lotus crew, Kanaan steadily work his way through the field, avoided a multi-car pileup and emerged with his third podium finish of the season. Kanaan is no stranger to Motegi having made eight starts there albeit all on the oval. He has qualified in the top-10 seven times including five times in the top-five with a best starting position of second in 2003. Kanaan has finished in the top-10 six times with four top-five showings, three podium performances and a win in 2007.
"The Motegi oval was so different and challenging and that's what I really liked about it,” Kanaan said. “Unfortunately, we won't be able to race on it because of the problems that the track suffered, and although I never raced the road course track I've checked it out and it looks pretty cool. I have great memories of Japan. I won at Motegi in 2007 and I always enjoyed racing there. I will miss going to Japan for sure, so I hope we can put on a good show for all our Japanese fans on this last race."
Kanaan is having his best season in three years. The perennial championship contender is currently fifth in the championship race with 340 points, just 27 out of fourth. The 36-year-old Brazilian leads KVRT – Lotus with nine top-10 finishes including seven top-five showings and three podiums (second at Iowa, thirds at St. Petersburg and Baltimore). Kanaan has not qualified well on the road/street circuits starting in the top-10 just twice in nine events (best starting spot is eighth at St. Petersburg), but he has been extremely competitive in the races finishing in the top-10 six times including four top-five finishes and two podiums (St. Petersburg and Baltimore, third; Edmonton, fourth; Mid-Ohio, fifth also placed sixth at Barber and eighth at Long Beach).
Sato, No. 5 KV Racing Technology – Lotus, returns to his native Japan following a disappointing race at Baltimore. He had a fast car in qualifying, but unfortunately had an incident and lost his two fastest laps. He ended up 26th on the grid of 28 cars when Kanaan and Helio Castroneves were forced into their backup cars and moved to the back of the field. Sato drove well in the race and had a good strategy which eventually had him running in sixth place with only a few laps remaining. Unfortunately, he sustained damage to his car during the closing laps and finished 18th. Sato made his Motegi IndyCar debut last year and had his best oval performance of the season qualifying 10th and finishing 12th.
Commenting on returning to race in his homeland Sato said, “Motegi will be for sure an unforgettable event. I have never raced on the Motegi road course, but I really have a positive feeling. I expect we will be competitive, well we have to be! We had fantastic support from the very enthusiastic Japanese fans last year, so I am really looking forward to running in front of them again and trying my best. It has been a hectic schedule here in Japan after I arrived, with endless events and interviews etc, but it's great to see the level of interest and the fans are so supportive. I have the highest motivation for the weekend.”
Sato is having a solid year in his second IndyCar season. He has been in and out of the top-10 in the points all year and is currently 14th in the standings with 262 points, just 22 out of 10th. Sato, 34, has finished in the top-10 six times including his first three IndyCar top-five finishes (career-high fourth on the road course at Mid-Ohio, fifths at St. Petersburg and Texas). He has also earned his first two IndyCar poles (on the oval in Iowa and the street circuit in Edmonton, becoming the first Japanese driver to win an IndyCar pole) and led his first IndyCar race (at Brazil) and subsequently led three other races (Iowa, Edmonton, New Hampshire) for a total of 61 laps. Sato, a veteran of seven Formula 1 seasons, has been strong on road and circuits this year. Three of his top-10 finishes, two of his top-fives and one pole have come on road/street events (Mid-Ohio, fourth; St. Petersburg, fifth; Brazil, eighth; pole at Edmonton)
Viso, No. 59 PDVSA – KV Racing Technology – Lotus, also had a strong, but disappointing race in Baltimore. For the second weekend in a row and the second time this season he started a team-high ninth. Viso drove a very solid race and was running in fourth place, but was the victim of some bad luck (a recurring theme this year) when the team’s strategy to pit with the leaders, simply did not work out as hoped. Viso has raced on the Motegi oval twice with a best starting position of eighth last year. He has finished 15th both times (2009 and 2010).
"Going back to Japan always makes me happy,” Viso said. “ I love the culture and the people and feel the country has a lot of energy. It's usually a great race. It will be nice to go back there and help and support the casualties from the Tsunami. It's fantastic that IndyCar have managed to put the race together so we can bring some excitement and pump their emotions up.”
Regarding the track Viso said, “It's going to be pretty different for all of us. In the past we used to race at the oval track but this time we will race their road course which will be fun. I like going to new places and learning new tracks. It will be a big challenge for all the teams and drivers, trying to setup the cars according to those conditions and track. We have had some good continuity with the setups and made steady progress and I believe Motegi is going to be a great race for me."
Viso is 18th in the standings with 217 points. The 26-year-old Venezuelan has finished in the top-10 four times this year, twice on ovals, a season-high seventh in race one at Texas and 10th in the second plus road-course season-high ninths at Toronto and Sonoma. His career best finish on a road/street course is fourth at St. Petersburg in 2008 (overall career-high, third in Iowa). Viso has had competitive races on the road/street circuits this year. However, his efforts have been stymied by a string of what can only be described as bad luck (punctured tire at St. Pete, hit by another competitor at Barber, contact in Long Beach, questionable blocking penalty at Brazil, two punctured tires at Toronto and contact in Edmonton).
KVRT – Lotus has had some of their best results this season on tracks that require drivers to turn right as well as left and earning 11 top-10 finishes with six top-five showings in nine road/street events.
The Indy Japan 300, will be broadcast in the United States on Saturday, September 16 on Versus at 11:30 p.m. ET