Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing makes a run for Indy 500 victory

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Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing

Takuma Sato, Rahal Letterman Lanigan Honda
Takuma Sato, Rahal Letterman Lanigan Honda

Photo by: Eric Gilbert

SATO WAS THREE TURNS FROM A POTENTIAL WIN IN THE INDY 500 BUT FINISHED 17TH DUE TO CONTACT AFTER BEING ALONGSIDE THE EVENTUAL WINNER; JOURDAIN JR. FINISHED 19TH

TAKUMA SATO, No. 15 Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Dallara/Honda/Firestone: “What an incredible weekend. Not only the weekend, but it was also an incredible month of May. I was going for the win. On the last restart, we jumped from seventh to fifth, then taking fourth, third, second. I kept pushing and overtaking. On the very last lap I had a good tow from Dario (Franchitti). I thought I had the job done. But he kept pushing and didn’t give me enough room so that I was well below the white line. But it was an outstanding job by the team. It was a very exciting race. I was calm when I was leading. I knew there were many laps to go and I was following team protocol. The last 30 laps were pretty exciting. The two yellows in 30 laps gave us some good opportunities to move forward. The moment I was alongside Dario I said to myself ‘Job done.’ I was hoping that coming out of Turn 1 side-by-side with Dario we would take the lead going to Turn 2 and Turn 3. It didn’t work out that way though. He could have given a little bit more space and we would have come out of the corner no problem. Into Turn 1 I was well below the white line. It was in the center of the monocoque. I was almost in the grass and the car started sliding.”

FAST FACTS: After passing many cars from his 19th place start in the Indy 500, Sato ran at the front most of the race including leading the event three times for a total of 31 laps (119-123; 126-146; 148-152) which ranked third overall, he was alongside eventual race winner Dario Franchitti going into Turn 1 on the final lap of the Indy 500 after getting a run on him on the front straight. Momentum was in his favor but, in order to avoid making contact with Franchitti, Sato was squeezed down to the inside edge of the track as far as he could be and lost control due to lack of traction and ultimately finished 17th… It was his third Indy 500 in 2012 and EIGHTH race at IMS after competing in F1 races here in 2002, 2004-07... In the 2011 Indy 500, he narrowly missed making it into the Fast Nine in qualifying with his 10th fastest qualifying average for the 2011 race and retired in 33rd place due to contact after 20 laps. In 2010 he qualified 31st and finished 20th after completing 198/200 laps – both for KV Racing Technology… IMS is the site of Sato’s best F1 finish of third in 2004 – the same year RLL won the Indy 500 with Buddy Rice… Is Sato’s first season at RLL and third in IndyCar… Sato led two of the first three races but failed to finish due to mechanical failure (St. Pete & Barber) and “avoidable contact” by Hunter-Reay (Long Beach) on the final lap en route to a career best finish of third. When he did finally see the checkered flag, he earned his best series finish to date of third place in Brazil despite starting 25th due to an unapproved engine change... Moved from a seventh-place rank in series points to 12th with 100.

MICHEL JOURDAIN JR, No. 30 Office Depot / RLL Racing Dallara/Honda/Firestone: “For me the first couple of stints went good as planned; I passed some cars and got up to 15th which was better than planned. Then in the first green stop I had too many revs (on the engine) and couldn’t get it into first gear so we lost five or six seconds. Then the next stop was under green too and we took a little bit too long on the right rear tire so, in the pits we probably lost eight seconds and lost a lap there by like one second to (leader) Marco. Later we went two laps down but got one back and we were right there. I was racing with Oriol and some guys and I felt like I was faster than a lot of the guys but then we pitted with closed pits. I think it is little details by not being out there racing together every weekend that make a difference. There are some amazing teams and drivers that everyday have everything perfect. If you want to finish in the top-10 you cannot put a foot wrong. We put a small foot wrong a couple of times and the result shows it. But for me, for being away so long, I am happy. I think I did a good job.”

FAST FACTS: Jourdain started 22nd in his second Indianapolis 500 race in 2012. His No. 30 Honda-Dallara-Firestone entry is sponsored by Office Depot Mexico with associate sponsorship from Roshfrans, Grupo Indi and Grupo Multi… He qualified eighth and finished 13th in the 1996 Indy 500 race… He is returning to open wheel racing for the first time since 2004… He made 152 starts in the CART/Champ Car World Series and three in the IRL/IndyCar Series (1996/97 season) between 1996-2004… His highest finish in the IRL/IndyCar Series is second place at Las Vegas Motor Speedway in 1996 and he earned two wins in CART/CCWS in 2003 at Montreal and Milwaukee while driving for Team Rahal… With support from Ford Motor Company, he moved to NASCAR’s Nationwide Series from 2005-2008 and also competed in the Camping World Truck Series in 2006. Since then, he competed in various rally and sports car series.

BOBBY RAHAL, Team co-owner on Sato’s last lap pass: “It’s a shame because Takuma drove a fantastic race and the crew did a great job. What I am most pleased about is that we are not the most well-funded team out there and yet we are going head-to-head with the most well-funded team out there so we are getting a lot of bang for our buck. I feel for Takuma because he did a super job. I don’t blame him at all. When you see the opportunity you’ve got to go for it – especially with one lap to go in the Indy 500. I’m proud of the job he did and proud of the job the guys did and I feel bad for them because they deserved a little bit better. I guess you can say ‘Well, they were we were here if nothing else.’ What I was most surprised about is that up to this race the Chevy’s had a fuel economy advantage on us but it was the other way around here. We were stopping two laps after the Chevy’s so Honda obviously did a great job. It’s a great victory for them. And the Firestone tires were so good; so consistent. You go from set-to-set and nothing changes. If the car was good with one set, it’s good with the next one. They did a great job too.

“I thought Michel did a very good job. I’m not sure what happened but he pitted when the pits were closed and that obviously hurt our overall standing but up until that point he was running very competitively. In fact early in the race he was two or three cars behind Takuma and was going to the front. I thought he did a great job in his first race back and I think he has to feel pretty happy about the day. I hope he will be back with us and do a few more races.”

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Series INDYCAR
Tags honda, jourdain, lanigan, letterman, rahal, sato