Today's IZOD IndyCar Series, Firestone Indy Lights and Mazda Road to Indy headlines:
1. If you missed it: Bobby Rahal and Takuma Sato Conference Call
2. Hinchcliffe to field questions at Canadian Motorsports Expo
3. HVM welcomes new team manager
4. Open Test set for Barber Motorsports Park
1. If you missed it: Bobby Rahal and Takuma Sato Conference Call: Rahal Letterman Lanigan co-owner Bobby Rahal and IZOD IndyCar Series driver Takuma Sato were guests on an INDYCAR conference call today to discuss Sato's signing with Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing. A full transcript and a broadcast-quality MP3 are available at www.indycar.com/media. Selected quotes from the interview are below.
Q. Bobby, talk about the team's recent news. How excited are you to add a driver of the quality of Takuma and how did your relationship start?
BOBBY RAHAL: I'm excited that Taku has joined us for our 2012 IndyCar season. I had a chance to see Taku not when he first started racing but when he was Europe in England in Formula 3 in 2001 when I was over there with Jaguar Formula One. I managed to watch Takuma win a lot of Formula 3 races. I think Formula 3 has always been considered a very good judge of talent.
Of course, you know, I kept an eye on him when he was in Formula One. So I've known his competitiveness, his speed. I've seen that many times over the years.
I was very pleased that we were able to come together. We've spent some time together. Taku spent a lot of time in England, so he's got a lot of English slang and colloquialisms, so it's almost like being back in England when you're around him.
I think we all look forward to having him with us because, as I said earlier, he's shown his pace over the last couple years in IndyCars. As I said in the beginning when we reentered IndyCar racing, it was important for us to do so with someone who was going to be competitive. I had no real interest in just being here. Taku certainly fits that bill.
I think we are quite excited for the start of the year. We have testing to do yet. We've done a little bit already in December which went I think pretty well. So I think everybody's just anxious to get going.
Q. Obviously adding Takuma to your driver lineup isn't the only change for your team, which is going to base its IZOD IndyCar Series operations in Brownsburg, Ind. Why move the operation to Indianapolis?
BOBBY RAHAL: This has actually been under consideration for a number of years. It's really become the center of IndyCar racing, the Indianapolis area. You look at the resource that exists here within the area, both the human resource, but the subcontractors, what have you, that can provide services for an IndyCar team.
It just seemed to me that we needed to be in sort of the epicenter of IndyCar racing now that we were going to come back into it on a full-time basis. So we managed to lease the space that Gil de Ferran used to be in from my friend Don Prudhomme. It's a nice shop up here in Brownsburg. This is a start for us. But the IndyCar team will certainly be headquartered here for many years to come because we think this is the place to be both for now and in the future.
Q. Taku, it has to be a relief for you to get your plans for 2012 settled after what has been a pretty long off-season.
TAKUMA SATO: Yes and no. Obviously I'm very excited to be announced I'm joined with Bobby's big project. I'm extremely pleased and extremely excited.
As Bobby said, I made the first contact immediately after the season ends last year. When I heard from Bobby, it was such an excitement project for his 2012 restart with the IndyCar project.
We talk about lots of various options, the great stories, what could be the scenario. It was just a matter of all the preparation.
It was a long winter. But I was always confident that we could do a great deal with it. Suddenly the announcement this February, very excitement. But I've known it's going to be happen from very early stage of the end of the season last year, so I'm extremely pleased.
Q. This will be your third year in the IZOD IndyCar Series. What led to your decision to change teams and do you feel that Rahal Letterman Lanigan can help you get the first win in the series that you've been so close to getting?
TAKUMA SATO: Yeah, sure. As a driver you have to look at the options, the various options, after the season ends. As I said, Bobby gave me a great offer. I believe very strongly this team is going to be huge potential.
I mean, Bobby's team, Rahal Letterman Lanigan team, it's shown great history. The numbers in racing is very impressive winning record. It's just great success. Okay, the IndyCar Series wasn't entering full-time in a couple years, but they showing great speed last year every single time they were entering IndyCar. So I was very confident.
Of course, with the new operation, (indiscernible) very experienced, and such a great opportunity to see all the possibility for the great performance. When I discuss with Bobby how it's going to operate with the new team, I was very excited.
My expectation is ever so high. I was very confident we could do a great job this year.
Q. Bobby, I know you talked about not only having Taku, but having a second car. Since you're coming back into the series, have you gone over with the series how Leaders Circle money might be allocated? Is there a date where you need to have the second car confirmed or else that engine contract, you might not have that?
BOBBY RAHAL: First off, on the Leaders Circle situation, I'm not quite sure what the situation is there. We certainly made a presentation to them, as did many other teams.
I think we bring some unique assets to the equation that can really help IndyCar. I think we've already utilized many of those, thanks to David Letterman. But that process is still going on as far as I know. We've not heard one way or the other.
We certainly hope to receive one of the Leaders Circle memberships and believe we deserve to be, frankly. But, again, it's out of our hands at this stage and we'll just have to wait like everybody else. I think it is important for us to be one of the members of the Leaders Circle, so we're certainly hopeful.
In regards to the second car, we're very close on that. All of our efforts are being split right now between getting Taku's car ready for the Barber test. This last week we did not go to the Sebring test because we felt it was more important for us to understand the car, what we have a little bit better, so we spent several days on the seven-post rig up in Canada, which we've used quite extensively in the past in IndyCar Series and ALMS cars. We came away with a lot of good information from that.
Quite frankly, there's plenty of time. You're limited to 1,000 miles per driver pre-season anyway. So by doing Barber, Sebring and Sebring again, we'll be able to accomplish 1,000 miles.
I think right now it's getting Taku's car ready for those tests and working hard to finalize our second driver. The second car is being prepared as we speak. As far as we're concerned, we're going to have two cars, two drivers, and that's really our focus at this point in time.
Q. Bobby, what is the importance of having multiple cars, with your new car? Do you have more chance to find out more about them?
BOBBY RAHAL: For sure having multiple cars within a team is better I think up to a point. I think ideally a two-car team is probably the right number. We've run three in the past and been successful with that. But, nevertheless, organizationally it's a much tougher deal. That's part of the reason why we want to be a two-car team.
Having said that, I had my best years, some of my best years, on a single-car team. We've gone to Indy the last several years as a single-car team and done I think pretty well.
While a single-car team may not be ideal, I think your ability to be competitive is just as good there as anywhere else because you're able to focus all your efforts on one driver, one car, a small group of people tightly knit. That can do a lot of good things.
In the end, if we have our options, we want to be a two-car team. We're working hard for that. I think we will be. So that's how we're going forward at this stage.
2. Hinchcliffe to field questions at Canadian Motorsports Expo: Andretti Autosport's James Hinchcliffe, the 2011 Sunoco Rookie of the Year, will be on the Mazda Stage from 12:45-1:30 p.m. Feb. 12 for a Q&A session at the Canadian Motorsports Expo at the International Centre adjacent to Pearson International Airport in Toronto.
Hinchcliffe will then head to the Inside Track Motorsport News booth to sign autographs and chat with the show goers.
"It's been a couple of years since my last visit and I know it's grown in stature since then, which is fantastic to see," said Hinchcliffe, 25, a native of suburban Toronto. "Canadian fans are truly passionate about their motorsports and it's always a great experience to hang out with them."
The IZOD IndyCar Series returns to the streets of Exhibition Place July 6-8 for the Honda Indy Toronto.
3. HVM welcomes new team manager: Lotus HVM Racing has added Shane Seneviratne as the team's new manager. Seneviratne, former principal of US RaceTronics, has an 18-year history in Indy Lights and Atlantics, amassing multiple championships.
He worked with Simona de Silvestro in Atlantics in '09.
"I'm excited to be part of HVM Racing and happy to help Simona once more continue her remarkable racing career," he said. "The new IndyCar brings new challenges to teams that have not had to be dealt with for many years. I'm looking forward to contributing to this team in overcoming these challenges, and in strengthening the great chemistry that exists within HVM Racing."
4. Open Test set for Barber Motorsports Park: Firestone Indy Lights and the Star Mazda Championship presented by Goodyear will share Barber Motorsports Park on March 19-20 for an Open Test. Each series will have seven sessions on the 2.38-mile road course.
Both series will be part of the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg on March 23-25 and return to Barber Motorsports Park on March 30-April 1 as part of the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama