FIRST INDYCAR RACE AT BALTIMORE FOR RLL RACING The Grand Prix of Baltimore will mark the first Indy car event for Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing (RLL) here and second overall race. The team’s ALMS GT program qualified on pole (No. 55) and in third (No. 56) in 2011. The No. 55 car was taken out of the lead by contact from a Corvette and the team finished fifth (No. 55) and second (No. 56). The No. 15 entry for Takuma Sato will be the first Indy car entry in this race.
SATO ON THE STREETS This will be Takuma Sato’s second race here. He qualified 26th and finished 18th in 2011 with KV Racing Technology but has run well on street courses this season with RLL Racing including leading the St. Pete and Long Beach races. He finished third on the streets of Brazil and earned his series-best finish of second in Edmonton. The team will be assessed a 10-grid penalty after qualifying in Baltimore due to an unapproved engine change – their seventh of the season. All engine changes past a season limit of five, incur a 10-grid penalty.
SATO ON HIS EXPECTATIONS ON THE FINAL STREET RACE OF THE SEASON “Well I believe we can have a very strong weekend. I expect we will be competitive in Baltimore based on our performance on streets courses this season and there are a number of positives that indicate we can do well. We just need to concentrate on every function we have, and work to the best of our ability and we can make the most of our potential. I am very motivated and really looking forward to the final street race of the season. We just need to make sure that we don't have any bad luck.”
VP TECHNOLOGY JAY O’CONNELL ON THE BENEFIT OF THE TEAM’S BALTIMORE ALMS EXPERIENCE The team’s ALMS program started from pole in Baltimore last year but was taken out of the lead by contact from another car and finished fifth while the “sister car” qualified third and finished second. Although it will be the first time for the IndyCar operation to compete in Baltimore, they have a good baseline of knowledge according to Vice President of Technology Jay O’Connell.
“Our ALMS program adapted quickly to the Baltimore street course last year,” said O’Connell. “You may recall that the first ALMS practice was cancelled last year since the circuit was still being completed so we had just one practice session before qualifying. Our drivers were still learning the course during qualifying and improved their best practice time by two seconds to take the GT class pole. The data and experience we gained from Baltimore last year has been shared with our IndyCar Series team in order to prepare for this year’s race. Several parts of the course have changed but the majority of the corners are the same. Our Indy car has been very competitive on street courses this season so we expect to have another strong weekend in Baltimore. The course has a mixture of concrete and paved surfaces which makes it challenging to adjust the balance to work well on both surface types.”
SATO ON THE SUCCESS OF THE 2011 BALTIMORE RACE The inaugural Grand Prix of Baltimore took place last year and was well attended. Sato is looking forward to the same support this year.
“It was very impressive and really great to see the massive attendance of fans and the very nice atmosphere. It was also great to see an incredible effort from the city and promoter. Their commitment to close the railway service over the weekend since it was part of racetrack and laying down asphalt on top of the railway crossing was impressive! It's a beautiful, great city with a lot going on over the course of the race weekend. And it’s a challenging track; I like it a lot.”
SATO ON THE CHALLENGES OF THE BALTIMORE COURSE “I really enjoy the track. It is one of the very challenging street courses in the series and has a nice balance of smooth, high-speed sections and technical, bumpy, low-speed sections. It's a fast track too. I think the physical demands were very high on this track with a lot of grip and a busy lap. It is very challenging and I really like it. Also there were a few more challenges last year like a tight high-speed, mammoth chicane on the main straight and a narrow pit entry which all are changed now and improved so it will now be more safe but still a great, fun street race track.”
SATO’S SEASON TO DATE Of Sato’s three seasons to date in the IndyCar Series, this has been his most competitive to date although his 15th place rank in series standings with a total of 243 points does not reflect that performance. He is 43 points from a top-10 rank (10th: G. Rahal, 286 pts). He led three races to date and ran as high as second, fourth and sixth in five others. His top finish to date this season is a career-best finish of second in Edmonton.
Source: Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing