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IndyCar Indianapolis 500

Rahal: “Anomaly” Indy 500 team-mate Sato has a “hell of an engine”

Graham Rahal says his returning team-mate Takuma Sato’s qualifying pace at the Indianapolis 500 is an “anomaly” due to him having “a hell of an engine”.

Graham Rahal, Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda, Kenny Brack

Rahal will go into his second consecutive last-chance qualifying with his family-run, Honda-powered Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing team, 12 months after being bumped from the Indy 500 field in agonizing circumstances.

He could only manage the 33rd fastest four-lap average around the Speedway, and will now battle with Katherine Legge, Marcus Ericsson and Nolan Siegel for the final three spots on the grid – with one of them going home after today’s session.

But in contrast to his struggle to 230.685mph, his one-off team-mate Sato will gun for the pole today after managing 232.473mph. Sato qualified eighth last year with Chip Ganassi Racing and 10th with Dale Coyne in 2022, and could start from inside the top 10 for three different teams this year if he repeats his pace on Sunday.

When asked about Sato’s pace, Rahal replied: “I think Takuma is an anomaly. You can see that. Takuma, he's got a hell of an engine, man. Unfortunately or fortunately.

“But compared to the rest of us – you see where the other three cars are the same, right? There's one that's different. That's just the way it goes sometimes.

“Look, it's a double-edged sword. If I had magically put it together the last lap, then [Pietro Fittipaldi, his other team-mate who qualified 30th] is out, and we don't want him to be out, either.

“It's a tough scenario right now, and so I guess after last year, I'm the man that's picked for the job to try to put it together.”

Graham Rahal, Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda

Graham Rahal, Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda

Photo by: Josh Tons / Motorsport Images

Rahal added that he never thought he’d be back in the last-chance session, but believes his team has gained speed, citing fellow Honda team Ganassi – which took the pole with Alex Palou last year – as a benchmark.

“It's not at all what we expected as a team,” he admitted. “I think it's a culmination of a lot of things that have put us back here again, but it's no excuse.

“We've got to figure out why we've lost some speed over the last couple of days and just go from there.

“I know a lot of you guys are probably sitting in here thinking I'm out of my mind, but we did make gains this year. If we had stayed static to where we were last year, we'd be in the 228s [mph], based on where Ganassi is.

‘We were five to six miles an hour off. We're not there anymore. But, unfortunately, a few things have happened, and the Chevys have stepped up their game. That's factual.”

Graham Rahal, Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda

Graham Rahal, Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda

Photo by: Geoffrey M. Miller / Motorsport Images

Rahal complained that his car wouldn’t pull out of corners, and believes that he was matching his rivals for mid-corner speed but would then lose time on the straights.

“What we kind of fell into the trap of today was that nothing that we did actually found speed,” he said. “We seemed to degrade as the day went on.

“We had to shorten our gears, which you shouldn't have to do, but we couldn't get it to accelerate otherwise. We couldn't get the top speed out of the car. We reduced scrub. The second-to-last run was a really good, fairly neutral balance, for me at least, and it still is nowhere near quick enough.

“We did have an engine issue. That was factual. [Honda] borescoped it, they asked us to remove it, but they made the decision quick. They didn't leave us hanging. They're a great partner in that regard, and we changed it as quick as we could, but even with a new bullet, we went out and did the exact same speed.

“It just doesn't line up. This has got to be something mechanically that's holding us back, and unfortunately that takes a lot of work to find.”

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