Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing
SATO EARNED HIS BEST SERIES FINISH OF THIRD IN THE ITAIPAVA SAO PAULO INDY 300
TAKUMA SATO, No. 15 Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Dallara/Honda/Firestone: “It is a fantastic feeling to finish third. It was an eventful race starting from the back of the grid. I needed to fight back so hard to get the positions back. The first part of the race was really hard, not necessarily on the overtaking but to follow the strategy, and at one stage we had a pit speed penalty but we gradually moved up. One-by-one we overtook cars which was very exciting. In the end, the restart got me into a great place; it was very exciting for me. There is always opportunity on a restart but you never know until you hit the brake because there is no plan basically. When Helio and Dario were in front of me, two wide, initially I thought there was no chance but when I saw their braking point was earlier than I expected I saw a little opportunity to dive inside. I was confident that I would make the corner so I was very excited. Finally, after a difficult weekend, it is a relief to get this result and I am really pleased to bring the team a third place and see the first checkered flag of the season. It was a great day.”
FAST FACTS: After starting 25th, Sato overtook four cars on the opening lap but was challenged by a pit speed penalty after his first stop that dropped him to the back again. Once a caution came out the effect was negated. Later he jumped from 19th to 11th on a restart that spun Dario Franchitti around and involved many cars. After he made his second stop, he came out in 16th place and began to pass cars one at a time. He worked his way up to second place before his final pit stop on green Lap 54 of 75 and returned to the track in 12th and worked his way forward as others pitted. On the restart with seven laps to go, he dashed on the inside and passed the cars of Franchitti and Helio Castroneves in Turn 1 for third place. Behind him, there was another multi-car accident that brought out the final caution. It retuned to green on Lap 71 and he held the position to earn his best series finish of third place... 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... Moved from a 16th-place rank in series points to seventh with 83.
GERRY HUGHES, Race Engineer for Sato: (On the move Sato made for third:) “That move was classic Takuma in the fact that he never gives up. I think he was absolutely and utterly on the limit going into Turn 1 but he made it stick so fair play to him. Going into the race this afternoon was always going to be difficult and we needed an element of luck to make any progress from starting 25th on the grid after the engine failure we had yesterday. He drove a sensible race although we had a pit speed penalty which relegated us back to 26th and we had to do it all over again. To finish in third place after starting at the back of the grid shows that we had a competitive car and he drove a sensible race. We followed a classic three-stop strategy and were helped by the yellows and managed to achieve our goal of finishing the race first and foremost and also doing so with a podium.”