Monthly Archives: March 2012

Sato to Start 16th in the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama After Traffic Hindered Qualifying Attempt

Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing
Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama Barber Motorsports Park
IZOD IndyCar Series
NOTES/QUOTES – Saturday, March 31, 2012

SATO TO START 16TH IN THE HONDA INDY GRAND PRIX OF ALABAMA; TRAFFIC HINDERED QUALIFYING ATTEMPT

POLE: Helio Castroneves      1:10.4768 / 117.485 mph        (set in Round 3)
16th:    Takuma Sato              1:10.6111 / 117.262 mph        (set in Round 1)

TAKUMA SATO, No. 15 Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Dallara/Honda/Firestone:  “Qualifying was difficult because this morning we didn’t have a chance to see how the car was overnight due to the fog that cancelled the session. We went straight into qualifying without running at speed today, and it looks like the red alternate Firestone tires have great grip but a short life so you have to get your quick lap time done within two laps.  Once I was on track and up to speed, unfortunately on my first lap I caught traffic and that was it.  The balance wasn’t great but I think we would have been able to go to Round 2 so I am extremely disappointed because this track is very difficult to overtake on. Tomorrow’s warm-up will be very important to see how both the red and primary black tires effect because it looks like managing the tires correctly will be a key factor in the race.”

 

FAST FACTS: Will make his third start at this track. He qualified 11th here in 2011 and finished 16th and qualified sixth in 2010 and finished 15th – both for KV Racing Technology… Will be Sato’s first season at RLL and third in IndyCar… Sato led the season-opener in St. Pete two times for a total of 11 laps. He qualified 15th and passed three cars on the start, passed three cars on the second (re)start and two on another to move to the lead two times. He pitted from the lead for his final stop and suffered a mechanical failure that resulted in a 22nd place finish… In 34 starts in 2010-2011, has 17 career top-10 starting spots including four top-five starts and two poles ( Edmonton and Iowa 2011). He has earned eight top-10 finishes including three top-five spots (fourth at Mid-Ohio, fifth at Texas and St. Petersburg in 2011).  He led a total of 61 laps in 2011.

INDY 500 HELMET CONTEST: Sato is holding a “With you Japan” Charity Design Contest and the winner’s design will be featured on his Indy 500 helmet.  The winner will be chosen April 6. For more information log on to: http://www.withyoujapan.org/en/activity/

GERRY HUGHES, Race Engineer for Sato:  “After a productive days work yesterday in Practice 1 in the dry and getting a reasonable read on the car balance in Practice 2 in the wet, we went into qualifying with a reasonable degree of confidence about the balance of the car and overall performance.  Clearly everyone was in the same boat this morning in terms of little or no running at all.  So to have our one chance in qualifying disrupted by a car in front of us that was clearly a lot slower and should have moved out of the way is disappointing but we have to take that on the chin and look forward to tomorrow and ensure we give the driver the best car we can in warm-up and then on into the race.”

RAHAL LETTERMAN LANIGAN RACING AT BARBER… 2012 marks the 21st consecutive season of competition for the team.  It will be the first IndyCar Series race for the RLL at Barber.  The team is hoping to carry the momentum from the season-opener in St. Pete to Barber after having led two times for a total of 11 laps with Sato.

NEXT UP:  The morning warm-up will take place tomorrow from 8:40-9:10 a.m. CT.  The Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama will be televised live on NBC Sports Network at 2:00 p.m. ET Sunday, April 1.  “INDYCAR 36” will debut at 1:30 p.m. ET on the same network and will focus on driver Tony Kanaan.

Sato Third Fast in Practice for Honda Grand Prix of Alabama; Also Set Fastest Time in Wet Afternoon Practice

  

Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing

Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama Barber Motorsports Park
IZOD IndyCar Series
NOTES/QUOTES – Friday, March 30, 2012

 

SATO WAS THIRD FAST OVERALL IN PRACTICE FOR THE HONDA INDY GRAND PRIX OF ALABAMA; ALSO SET FASTEST TIME IN WET AFTERNOON SESSION

 

FASTEST:         Will Power         1:11.2886 / 116.148 mph
3rd:                    Takuma Sato     1:11.5608 / 115.706 mph            (fastest in wet P2 at 1:18.8684) 

 

TAKUMA SATO, No. 15 Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Dallara/Honda/Firestone:  “It was a very productive day. After the test here in late February we came back with a much better understanding. Today the conditions were a lot warmer than in February so the car responded different.  I was reasonably happy with the balance and hoped that we could improve in the afternoon but unfortunately it rained during the second session and we only ran a couple of laps. We made some changes to the car between sessions and although it was wet conditions, it felt better so I hope we have a strong package tomorrow.”

 

FAST FACTS: Will make his third start at this track. He qualified 11th here in 2011 and finished 16th and qualified sixth in 2010 and finished 15th – both for KV Racing Technology… Will be Sato’s first season at RLL and third in

IndyCar… Sato led the season-opener in St. Pete two times for a total of 11 laps. He qualified 15th and passed three cars on the start, passed three cars on the second (re)start and two on another to move to the lead two times. He pitted from the lead for his final stop and suffered a mechanical failure that resulted in a 22nd place finish… In 34 starts in 2010-2011, has 17 career top-10 starting spots including four top-five starts and two poles ( Edmonton and Iowa 2011). He has earned eight top-10 finishes including three top-five spots (fourth at Mid-Ohio, fifth at Texas and St. Petersburg in 2011).  He has led a total of 61 laps.

 

INDY 500 HELMET CONTEST: Sato is holding a “With you Japan” Charity Design Contest and the winner’s design will be featured on his Indy 500 helmet.  The winner will be chosen April 6. For more information log on to: http://www.withyoujapan.org/en/activity/

 

JAY O’CONNELL, Technical Director:  “We are pleased with the progress we have made since we first tested here in February.  We took the lessons we learned at the open test in Sebring and at the St. Pete race and applied them to this track.  In St. Pete, we continued to understand the car better and how to make it meet Takuma’s needs and improve the balance at low and high speed. The street course has a lot lower speeds and different tires then here but the low speed characteristics of the car in St. Pete carry over here in some ways.  The things we did to help the car at low speed in St. Pete helped us at Barber as well in the low speed corners.”

 

RAHAL LETTERMAN LANIGAN RACING AT BARBER… 2012 will mark the 21st consecutive season of competition for the team.  It will be the first IndyCar Series race for the RLL at Barber.  The team is hoping to carry the momentum from the season-opener in St. Pete to Barber after having led two times for a total of 11 laps with Sato.

 

NEXT UP:  Practice will take place tomorrow from 8:00-8:20 a.m. CT and qualifying will take place from 9:40-10:55 a.m.  Timing and Scoring information is available for all sessions from www.indycar.com.  NBC Sports Network will air a qualifying show at 4:00 p.m. ET Saturday, March 31.  The Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama will be televised live on NBC Sports Network at 2:00 p.m. ET Sunday, April 1.

 

RLL Makes Its Debut at Barber Motorsports Park; After Leading Season-Opener Sato Hopes to Carry Momentum to Alabama

Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Pre-Race Notes

Honda Indy Grand Prix of AlabamaBarber Motorsports Park, Leeds, Alabama

Round 2 of 16 in the 2012 IZOD IndyCar Series

 

DATE:                                         Friday – Sunday, March 30 – April 1, 2012

QUALIFYING BROADCAST:     Live on the IMS Radio Network and www.indycar.com (timing & scoring)

SPECIAL BROADCAST:            “INDYCAR 36” will air on NBC Sports Network at 1:30 p.m. ET

RACE BROADCAST:                 Live on Sunday at 2 p.m. ET on NBC Sports Network

RADIO BROADCAST:               The race will air on IMS Radio Network, XM channel 94 & Sirius channel 211

TRACK LAYOUT:                       2.38-mile, 17-turn road course

RACE LENGTH:                         90 laps / 214.2 miles 

2011 WINNER:                           Will Power

2011 POLESITTER:                   Will Power (1:11.4546; 115.878 mph)

SATO’S HIGHEST ROAD/

STREET COURSE START:        Pole at Edmonton 2011

SATO’S HIGHEST ROAD/

STREET COURSE FINISH:        4th at Mid-Ohio 2011

SATO IN BARBER:                    Highest start is sixth in 2010 and highest finish is 16th in 2011; third race here

 

 

NEWS & NOTES:

SATO PUTS RLL IN THE LEAD IN THEIR RETURN TO FULLTIME INDYCAR SERIES PARTICIPATION

Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing began their 21st consecutive season of competition in 2012.  This season marks the team’s return to fulltime participation in the IZOD IndyCar Series for the first time since 2008 when Ryan Hunter-Reay drove for the team and finished the season ranked eighth after a win in Watkins Glen. The team entered cars in the Indy 500 each year since then and will prepare the No. 15 entry for a full season of competition for Japanese driver Takuma Sato in 2012.  Sato put RLL in the lead of the race in their return to full-season participation at the season-opener in St. Petersburg when he took the position twice for a total of 11 laps. A mechanical issue forced the team’s retirement from the race after the final pit stop.

 

TEAM DEBUT IN BARBER; THIRD TIME CHARM FOR SATO

The 2012 Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama will mark the first IndyCar Series race for the team at Barber Motorsports Park. It will be Takuma Sato’s third event at the track.  In his first race here in 2010, he progressed to the Firestone Fast Six round with a sixth place qualifying position and finished 25th after an incident in Turn 13 hindered his result.  In 2011 he qualified 11th and finished 16th.

            Barber is one of my favorite circuits in the series,” said Sato. “It has nice flowing corners with great elevation changes and it's very challenging.  I always enjoy driving there and fans are very enthusiastic so it has a great atmosphere on race day. Unfortunately I didn't seem to have much luck in my previous two years of racing there but hopefully this time I will. Our winter test at Barber wasn't particularly strong in terms of performance but we did have a very competitive race last weekend so, although the characteristic of the circuits are very different, I hope we are able to have strong weekend.”

 

TECHNICAL DIRECTOR JAY O’CONNELL ON THE CHALLENGES OF BARBER

“The big challenge at Barber is to achieve a good low speed balance through the long low speed corners (T2-3, T5-6, and T9) while also maintaining good high speed stability (T10-11, T12),” said O’Connell of the 2.38-mile, 17-turn course.  “The elevation changes add to the challenge especially the downhill braking zones into T1 and T5, and the compressions entering T13 and T14.

            “Since the February Barber test was our first team test with the DW12, and our first time at Barber, we learned a lot about the car over the two days. Most of the setup and development work will carry over to the Barber race this weekend. For example we have a good starting point for ride heights and gear ratios based on the test setup.”

 

O’CONNELL ON REVELATIONS AT THE SEASON-OPENER AND A MISSED TOP-FIVE FINISH

“After racing at St. Pete last weekend, I think we are competitive with the other top Honda teams. Our car was much stronger in the race than in qualifying, so we need to focus on improving our qualifying setup. We used a creative strategy, combined with Takuma’s very strong restart and race pace to take the lead several times during the race. We were disappointed to have an issue with the gearshift system take us out of the race after completing our final pit stop. Takuma was headed for a top five finish.”

 

O’CONNELL ON THE ADDED ELEMENT OF STRATEGY FIRESTONE PROVIDED

Firestone’s alternate tire program, part of the IZOD IndyCar Series since 2009, calls for a second tire specification at a road- or street-course race weekend using the same tire construction as the primary specification, but with a softer tread compound to provide more grip and faster lap times while trading off compound durability in exchange for those shorter-term advantages. Firestone's alternate tires are easily identified by their bright red sidewalls. O’Connell believes this provided an added element of strategy in the season-opener and Sato’s experience with the program helped the team move into the lead.

“The difference in pace between the red and black Firestone tires at St. Pete was significant,” said O’Connell. “Like most teams, we saved the red tires for qualifying and had to anticipate the balance change that the red tires created. Takuma’s prior experience with the red tires helped, during qualifying and the race, to get the most performance out of them.”

 

SATO — DID YOU KNOW…

Sato, 35, is a former high school and university cycling champion in road racing and track cycling and racing on velodromes was his first experience racing on ovals… Despite not beginning his career in auto racing until he was 19 years old, he progressed to Formula One in only five years and went on to become the most successful Japanese driver to compete in F1 after having finished third at the US Grand Prix in 2004… The first race he attended was an F1 race at Suzuka at the age of 10… His career was launched years later when he read about a contest in a racing magazine while in college that ultimately resulted in being one of seven drivers (out of approx. 70) to win a racing scholarship. It was a one-shot opportunity due to an age limit and, as he knew it was the career path he preferred over others, he made the most of it… He went on to compete in F1 for seven seasons and made 91 starts… His popularity in Japan has been compared to that of a “Rock Star” and he is a popular corporate image character both in Japan and around the globe… He has been awarded “Goodwill Ambassador” for the British Embassy in Tokyo and used for valuable UK-Japan trade development activities… He founded “With You Japan,” an organization that provides support to children affected by the devastating earthquakes and tsunami in Japan. Many of whom lost their family, friends, teachers and homes… His U.S. base of Denver was chosen so that he could train in the high altitude and his fulltime residence is Monaco… He is married with two children.                                       

 

-RLL-

Sato Led the Honda Grand Prix of St. Pete Twice But Retired After His Final Stop Due to Mechanical Failure

TAKUMA SATO, No. 15 Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Dallara/Honda/Firestone:  “It was an exciting race!  I’m very pleased to put the Rahal Letterman Lanigan car in that position for their return to IndyCar and it was something I never imagined would happen today; especially after struggling in the practice sessions.  But we made a good improvement in the warm-up today. It was damp conditions so it was hard to know just how good the car was but it did feel good; I was comfortable. I really enjoyed racing today, battling through the field to come up to the front.  Every restart there was lots of overtaking and the guys did a great job and made a good call. I am so disappointed that we had a mechanical failure and couldn’t get the resulted we worked hard for.  But, it was encouraging though.”

FAST FACTS: Sato led two times for a total of 11 laps today. He made his final pit stop from the lead on Lap 71 and after he returned to the track, the car suffered a mechanical failure. The air line that operates the gear box failed due to heat… He passed three cars on the start, three cars on the following restart and two on the next one… Was his third race at this track.  He qualified 11th in 2011 and finished fifth and qualified 11th in 2010 and retired in 22nd place after contact in 2010 – both for KV Racing Technology… Will be Sato’s first season at RLL and third in IndyCar… In 34 starts in 2010-2011, has 17 career top-10 starting spots including four top-five starts and two poles ( Edmonton and Iowa 2011). He has earned eight top-10 finishes including three top-five spots (fourth at Mid-Ohio, fifth at Texas and St. Petersburg in 2011).  Prior to the race he had led 61 laps.

BOBBY RAHAL, team co-owner:  “It was an unfortunate end because we were having a darned good race.  We were leading after passing Dario and guys like that.  Takuma was driving very well and everything was going according to plan.  It’s a shame that we had a mechanical problem.”

RAHAL LETTERMAN LANIGAN RACING AT ST. PETE… 2012 will mark the 21st consecutive season of competition for the team.  It will be the fifth IndyCar race for the team in St. Pete and the ninth car entered. The team prepared Indy cars for Danica Patrick (2005, 2006), Buddy Rice (2005, 2006), Vitor Meira (2005), Jeff Simmons (2007), Scott Sharp (2007) and Ryan Hunter-Reay (2008) prior to this year. The team led the race for four laps with Hunter-Reay in 2008 (G. Rahal won) and has earned three top-10 finishes with the best being fifth by Meira in 2005.  The highest starting position by the team is sixth place by Hunter-Reay in 2008.

NEXT UP:  The Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama, Round 2 of 16 in the IZOD IndyCar Series, will take place on April 1 and will be televised by NBC Sports at 2 p.m. ET.

 

 

 

Takuma Sato Qualified 15th for the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg


POLE:             Will Power       1:01.3721 / 105.585 mph (set in Round 3)
15th                 Takuma Sato  1:02:6015 / 103.512 mph (set in Round 1; Group 1)             

 

TAKUMA SATO, No. 15 Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Dallara/Honda/Firestone:  “We made progress after the practice this morning and found some things to improve the handling of the car but we weren’t able to go to the next stage of qualifying which is disappointing. The race will be interesting because it will be the first time competing together with the new racing package. We will gather data tonight to give us an idea of what to expect in race trim and will know more at the warm-up.”

 

FAST FACTS: Will make his third start at this track.  He qualified 11th in 2011 and finished fifth and qualified 11th in 2010 and retired in 22nd place after contact in 2010 – both for KV Racing Technology… Will be Sato’s first season at RLL and third in IndyCar… In 34 starts in 2010-2011, has 17 career top-10 starting spots including four top-five starts and two poles ( Edmonton and Iowa 2011). He has earned eight top-10 finishes including three top-five spots (fourth at Mid-Ohio, fifth at Texas and St. Petersburg in 2011).  He has led a total of 61 laps.

 

GERRY HUGHES, Race Engineer for Sato:  “We are disappointed with our qualifying performance. I think that we’ve made some gains from where we were at the end of P3 (third practice).  We obviously had to make some changes to the car for the alternate tire, which we hadn’t run until this point, and I think we made some improvements in terms of balance on the softer compound and we will have to see how those transfer to the morning warm-up. Then we will have to combine those with some further changes in terms of targeting an optimal race balance for tomorrow.”

 

RAHAL LETTERMAN LANIGAN RACING AT ST. PETE… 2012 will mark the 21st consecutive season of competition for the team.  It will be the fifth IndyCar race for the team in St. Pete and the ninth car entered. The team prepared Indy cars for Danica Patrick (2005, 2006), Buddy Rice (2005, 2006), Vitor Meira (2005), Jeff Simmons (2007), Scott Sharp (2007) and Ryan Hunter-Reay (2008) prior to this year. The team led the race for four laps with Hunter-Reay in 2008 (G. Rahal won) and has earned three top-10 finishes with the best being fifth by Meira in 2005.  The highest starting position by the team is sixth place by Hunter-Reay in 2008.

 

NEXT UP:  The pre-race warm-up will take place from 8:35-9:05 a.m.  The season-opening Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg will be televised live on ABC at 12:30 PM ET Sunday, March 25.

Takuma Sato Had Trouble-Free Practice Sessions on Opening Day of the 2012 IZOD IndyCar Series Season


FASTEST:      Will Power       1:02.0077 / 104.503 mph

18th                Takuma Sato   1:02:9594 / 102.923 mph                   

 

TAKUMA SATO, No. 15 Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Dallara/Honda/Firestone:  “It was the first day of the season and basically it was a trouble-free day which is very important. We collected as much data as possible and had a long list of things to do today but the learning process was quite good.  It was good to see the boys able to work on pit stops in a race environment for the first time too. We will continue to work hard tomorrow.”

 

FAST FACTS: Will make his third start at this track.  He qualified 11th in 2011 and finished fifth and qualified 11th in 2010 and retired in 22nd place after contact in 2010 – both for KV Racing Technology… Will be Sato’s first season at RLL and third in IndyCar… In 34 starts in 2010-2011, has 17 career top-10 starting spots including four top-five starts and two poles ( Edmonton and Iowa 2011). He has earned eight top-10 finishes including three top-five spots (fourth at Mid-Ohio, fifth at Texas and St. Petersburg in 2011).  He has led a total of 61 laps.

 

TOM ANDERSON, Managing Director Motorsport Operations:  “It was the first day of the season and everyone is learning how to work together on a race weekend.  You never understand people’s personalities until you work with them on race weekend. Now the adrenaline starts to flow and you start to learn about your people. We had to assess a baseline and go from there. We made a few mistakes this morning with the new software which held us up a little bit. Other little issues cropped up which is not unusual; its just a matter of learning how to work with each other and how much instruction is needed for each different personality because when you haven’t worked with people before, if you give too much you insult them and if you don’t give enough the job doesn’t get done correctly.  In most cases right now, we are in situations where we haven’t given enough instructions. We will build each day so tomorrow will be better than today and so on. All in all, I am happy. Takuma has been driving hard today and there are things we can do to make the car more to his liking.  It is the first IndyCar weekend for (race engineer) Gerry Hughes and he is getting acclimated to the way the series works after coming from Formula One as is (technical director) Jay O’Connell, who has been focused on our successful sports car program for the past few years.”

 

RAHAL LETTERMAN LANIGAN RACING AT ST. PETE… 2012 will mark the 21st consecutive season of competition for the team.  It will be the fifth IndyCar race for the team in St. Pete and the ninth car entered. The team prepared Indy cars for Danica Patrick (2005, 2006), Buddy Rice (2005, 2006), Vitor Meira (2005), Jeff Simmons (2007), Scott Sharp (2007) and Ryan Hunter-Reay (2008) prior to this year. The team led the race for four laps with Hunter-Reay in 2008 (G. Rahal won) and has earned three top-10 finishes with the best being fifth by Meira in 2005.  The highest starting position by the team is sixth place by Hunter-Reay in 2008.

 

NEXT UP:  Practice will take place tomorrow morning from 9:55-10:55 a.m. ET and qualifying will take place from 1:55-3:15 PM.  Timing and Scoring information is available for all sessions from www.indycar.com.  The season-opening Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg will be televised live on ABC at 12:30 PM ET Sunday, March 25.

 

Honda Grand Prix of St. Pete Marks RLL’s Return to Fulltime IndyCar Participation; Sato Looking Forward to Third Season

Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing – Pre-Race Notes – 21st Season

Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg – Streets of St. Petersburg, Florida

 

Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg– FAST FACTS

Round 1 of 16 in the 2012 IZOD IndyCar Series

 

DATE:                                                Friday – Sunday, March 23-25, 2012

QUALIFYING BROADCAST:       Live on the IMS Radio Network and www.indycar.com (timing & scoring)

RACE BROADCAST:                      Live on Sunday at 12:30 p.m. ET on ABC

RADIO BROADCAST:                    The race will air on IMS Radio Network, XM channel 145 & Sirius channel 211

TRACK LAYOUT:                           1.8-mile, 14-turn street course

RACE LENGTH:                              100 laps / 180 miles 

2011 WINNER:                                 Dario Franchitti

2011 POLESITTER:                        Will Power (1:01.9625; 104.579 mph)

RLLR TOP START/

FINISH AT ST. PETE:                     6th by Hunter-Reay in 2008 (led 4) / 5th by Meira in 2005; fifth IndyCar race in St. Pete

SATO’S HIGHEST ROAD/

STREET COURSE START:           Pole at Edmonton 2011

SATO’S HIGHEST ROAD/

STREET COURSE FINISH:           4th at Mid-Ohio 2011


SATO IN ST.

PETE:                         Highest start is 11th (2010 & 2011), highest finish is fifth (2011); third race here

 

NEWS & NOTES:

RETURN TO FULLTIME INDYCAR SERIES PARTICIPATION

Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing will begin their 21st consecutive season of competition in 2012.  This season marks the team’s return to fulltime participation in the IZOD IndyCar Series for the first time since 2008 when Ryan Hunter-Reay drove for the team and finished the season ranked eighth after a win in Watkins Glen. The team entered cars in the Indy 500 each year since then and will prepare the No. 15 entry for a full season of competition for Japanese driver Takuma Sato in 2012.

                “We are pleased to be back fulltime,” said team co-owner Bobby Rahal. “We have been trying to do this for the last several years but we have been unable to do it properly and, of course, you don’t want to do anything improperly.  Mike Lanigan, frankly, brought a lot of energy and enthusiasm towards getting back into the series on a fulltime basis.  I’m excited about it and I met with David (Letterman) recently and he is very excited about it too. Even though the IndyCar group is a fairly new group for the most part, we feel that we have got good engineering support and good people in key places and are confident that we can be a factor in the series.” 


RAHAL LETTERMAN LANIGAN RACING IN ST.

PETE

The 2012 Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg will mark the fifth IndyCar race for the team in St. Petersburg and Takuma Sato’s No. 15 entry will be the ninth car prepared by the team for this event.  RLLR previously prepared Indy cars for Danica Patrick (2005, 2006), Buddy Rice (2005, 2006), Vitor Meira (2005), Jeff Simmons (2007), Scott Sharp (2007) and Ryan Hunter-Reay (2008) for the St. Pete race. The team led the race for four laps with Hunter-Reay in 2008 but changing strategy prompted by intermittent rain led to a different Rahal – Graham – winning the event.  RLLR has earned three top-10 finishes with the best being fifth by Meira in 2005.  The highest starting position by the team is sixth place by Hunter-Reay in 2008.

SATO ON THE 2012 RACING SEASON

Takuma Sato, 35, will compete in his third season of IZOD IndyCar Series competition and his first with RLL.  In 34 starts in 2010-2011, Sato has 17 career top-10 starting spots including four top-five starts and two poles ( Edmonton and Iowa 2011).   He has earned eight top-10 finishes including three top-five spots (fourth at Mid-Ohio, fifth at Texas and St. Petersburg in 2011) and has led a total of 61 laps.  He is looking forward to the new challenges this season.

                “I am very excited for this coming weekend,” said Sato, who earned his second series pole on the road/street course in Edmonton last season.  “St. Pete has always been a great venue for both fans and drivers. I love the atmosphere of downtown and there are a lot of great places to eat.” 

SATO AT ST. PETE

In his two previous races on the 1.8-mile street course, Sato started 11th in both.  His best finish at the track is fifth place last year. He is looking forward to the chance to improve upon that finish and anticipates some surprises.

                “The track is tricky but there are some good overtaking opportunities as it has a couple of long straights with heavy braking in each end of them. The car needs good mechanical grip as it is a typical bumpy street course but also requires high-speed stability because of some quick corners.  We have been working hard to find a good setup from the new car at the preseason tests. There always tends to be some surprises at the start of the season but this year could be more so because of the new cars, new engines and new teams.  I just can't wait to get there and find how we go racing!”

BOBBY ON TAKUMA

“Takuma has shown to us already that he has got the speed,” said Rahal.  “For us, and for him I think, our focus is on getting the car to the end of the race.  It’s about us helping to put him in a position where he can make a difference at the end of the race.  On the race track, I have no doubt that he can do that. There will be a little bit of a get-acquainted process for each of us but I think everybody is pretty fired up about going back out there and putting on a good show.”

BOBBY ON BEING POWERED BY HONDA AND THE INDY 500 WIN

“I first started my discussions with Honda in 1989,” said Rahal of the engine manufacturer’s involvement in Indy car racing. “There was about a three year gestational period to get them from discussion to producing an engine for testing in 1993. I have a lot of very fond memories of that time and about some of the people that were there at the time – especially Mr. Osaka who was in charge of the project in the beginning. For us to have won Honda’s first Indy 500 in 2004 was a great thrill for me personally given the effort that went in all those years.  But now to be back with Honda as one of their selected teams in the new series, and with Takuma and his relationship with Honda, certainly we feel a great sense of obligation to put in a world class effort for both of them.”

TECHNICAL DIRECTOR JAY O’CONNELL ON THE RETURN TO INDYCAR FULLTIME

“It’s a good time to get back in the IndyCar Series because of the rule changes, the engine manufacturers coming in and the brand new car which gives everyone a level playing field to start from,” said Jay O’Connell, who has been with the team since fall 2007 after stints with Ford Motor Company, Jaguar Racing Formula One and Multimatic.  “Even though we have a lot of history with the Dallara chassis, it is a new chassis; a new evolution. It really helps that everyone starts from the same place.  All of the tips and tricks that you learned about the old car are put aside and we now start to figure out how to apply them to the new car.”

O’CONNELL ON THE LEVEL OF PREPARATION TO DATE

“I believe we are more prepared than others because of our Honda connection. They have been very forthcoming with information and data and their understanding of the new car.  They allowed Takuma to test the factory car in December and I think that gave us a big boost at Sebring and for the whole year as we approach the number of street courses we are going to race on.  I think we are quite prepared; we have done almost 900 miles of testing with Takuma in February and March leading up to the first race and I think that is a lot more testing than he may have done in the past.  That gives us a lot of confidence going into St. Pete.”

O’CONNELL IMPRESSED WITH TAKUMA’S PACE

“Takuma has impressed us with his ability to get going quickly. He really gets up to speed quickly; pushes the tires hard, pushes the car hard and gets the pace out of the car right away.  There is no warm-up time, no working up to it so you aren’t taking half of a day to get ready.  He is ready to go from the first outing and that means that we are able to cover more ground in the development space of the new car and we are able to try more changes over the course of the 900 miles that we have tested because he is on pace right away.”

O’CONNELL ON THE UNKNOWNS FOR ST. PETE AND 2012

“I think the biggest unknown is how the engines will stack up against each other. Everyone has been working on different development levels of engines up to this point but they will all bring their best game to St. Pete.  The first order will be to see how the engine competition plays out. And then the second level is to see who understands the Dallara the best so far and who can get the most out of the car.  Over the course of the year, everyone will get better and the cars will get faster and we will all get further down the road but right now it comes down to finding out who has learned the most about the car in the last three months since the cars arrived in boxes.”

SATO — DID YOU KNOW…

Sato, 35, is a former high school and university cycling champion in road racing and track cycling and racing on velodromes was his first experience racing on ovals… Despite not beginning his career in auto racing until he was 19 years old, he progressed to Formula One in only six seasons and went on to become the most successful Japanese driver to compete in F1 after having finished third at the US Grand Prix in 2004… The first race he attended was an F1 race at Suzuka at the age of 10… His career was launched years later when he read about a contest in a racing magazine while in college that ultimately resulted in being one of three drivers to win a racing scholarship. It was a one-shot opportunity due to an age limit and, as he knew it was the career path he preferred over others, he made the most of it… He went on to compete in F1 for seven seasons and made 91 starts… His popularity in Japan has been compared to that of a “Rock Star” and he is a popular corporate image character both in Japan and around the globe… He has been awarded “Goodwill Ambassador” for the British Embassy in Tokyo and used for valuable UK-Japan trade development activities… His U.S. base of Denver was chosen so that he could train in the high altitude and his fulltime residence is Monaco… He is married with two children.                                                   

BACK-TO-BACK SEASON-OPENING WINS?

Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing also competes fulltime in the American Le Mans Series. Last weekend the team won the GT class of the 12 Hours of Sebring with drivers Joey Hand, Dirk Müller and Jonathan Summerton.  The team’s other entry, driven by Jörg Müller, Bill Auberlen and Uwe Alzen led the race at one point and finished fourth in the ALMS GT class.

-RLL-

 

BMW Team RLL Claims 12 Hours of Sebring GT Victory for Second Consecutive Year

Sebring, 17th March 2012. BMW Team RLL had an excellent start to the 2012 American Le Mans Series season. At the 60th running of the 12 Hours of Sebring ( US) the no. 56 BMW M3 GT claimed overall victory in the GT class after 307 laps of the “Sebring International Raceway” and a dramatic final stage of the race. Over the course of the thrilling marathon, Dirk Müller (DE), Joey Hand (US) and Jonathan Summerton (US) shared the driving duties. Last year, Müller and Hand (along with Andy Priaulx) crossed the line as winners in the BMW M3 GT at the season opener. The sister BMW M3 GT, number 155 was driven by Jörg Müller (DE), Bill Auberlen (US) and Uwe Alzen (DE). The trio finished the race, which saw a combined field of ALMS GT cars and FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC) GTE entries, in fifth overall and scored fourth place points in ALMS GT class.

Summerton experienced a perfect debut in sports car racing by making it to the top step of the podium. With today’s win, a BMW M3 has now emerged victorious in the GT class of this event for the fourth time: 1997, 1998, 2011 and 2012. BMW claimed overall victory in 1975 with the BMW 3.0 CSL as well as with the BMW V12 LMR in 1999. With BMW M celebrating its 40th anniversary this year, this historic win comes as the perfect present.

In contrast to many of their competitors, the BMW drivers managed to keep out of any turmoil in the first half of the race. Their BMW M3 GT cars enabled them to clock consistent lap times, keeping in touch with the front-runners throughout the race. As the race developed, a gripping duel between BMW Team RLL and the two Chevrolet Corvettes kept the fans on their feet, all four cars only seconds apart for several hours. More than ten full-course yellows kept the GT field close until the closing stages of the contest. Only in the dying moments of the race were the BMW drivers were able to seal their second consecutive Sebring GT win. Both Hand and Jörg Müller were both victims of contact in the final minutes of the race. While Hand successfully defended his lead despite driving a heavily damaged car, Jörg Müller lost third position in the ALMS class.

Last season BMW Team RLL won the ALMS GT drivers’ championship as well as the team and manufacturer titles for the second consecutive year. Round two of the 2012 American Le Mans Series with be held at Long Beach (US) on 14th April.

Jens Marquardt (BMW Motorsport Director):

“This is a very emotional victory for us. We didn’t have an easy race, but encountered a couple of issues. However, the team stuck to its plan and kept their cool. Everyone worked fantastically together, the drivers gave their all until the very final lap. Especially the fight with the two Corvettes delivered pure excitement for several hours. It’s these tough fights that make the ALMS so special. It’s been a great race, from the first to the final hour. Our team can be really proud of this victory.”

Bobby Rahal (Team Principal):

“This was far from easy today. We had to cope with several issues and had to pit out of sequence. Luckily the yellows saved us on a number of occasions. I have to give a lot of credit to Dunlop. We went far longer on the one set of tyres than we ever had. This victory feels really sweet. Our drivers formed a very good combination and deserved this strong result at the beginning of our 2012 campaign. All the work put in by BMW Motorsport and our team over the winter paid off.”

Dirk Müller (BMW M3 GT – No. 56):

“This is unbelievable! It’s hard to believe that we really succeeded in repeating last year’s win. Although we suffered some minor problems over the course of the race, we kept our cool and kept pushing together. Especially during my second stint my car really felt like a rocket – and I managed to gain several positions. I have done so many races, but seldom felt as comfortable in the car as today.”

Joey Hand (BMW M3 GT – No. 56):

“After my very long final stint all I can say is this: Once more I put everything on the table. Now I feel really exhausted, but obviously very happy. My left knee aches from braking. My tyres had hardly any grip left but I knew that we could make it. We didn’t have the ultimate performance today, but our consistency and our great pit stops had already been our big strength last season. This was the same today – and now we can celebrate.”

Jonathan Summerton (BMW M3 GT – No. 56):

“If anyone had told me I would be able to celebrate victory with the guys after my first race in the BMW M3 GT, I wouldn’t have believed him. BMW Team RLL knows everything about this place. They know exactly what they do in any situation. The same goes for Joey and Dirk. I couldn’t have asked for better team-mates. They made me feel at home from the very first moment and supported me in all areas. Being with this team for this race is the best that could happen to me.”

Jörg Müller (BMW M3 GT – No. 155):

“This has been my first 12 Hours of Sebring since 2001. The race was tough, with a jammed-packed field. The car felt great over the whole weekend, and I particularly liked my long stint in the dark. Right until the final stage of the race I had a podium finish in sight, but then I was hit and dropped back. I’m disappointed, as we could have finished better.”

Bill Auberlen (BMW M3 GT – No. 155):

“Ahead of the first race of the season you never really know where you stand. And even after the first few hours of the race this wasn’t clear. Then it turned out to be a tough two-way fight between the Corvettes and us. This was great fun. I have been racing here for 25 years and every year Sebring is something special.”

Uwe Alzen (BMW M3 GT – No. 155):

“This was a very tough race, and this circuit is a huge challenge. However, this goes for all drivers out there. It was really hard to overtake, and the traffic was extreme, but as our pace was excellent. We managed to do really well. This result is a very nice reward for all the hard work put in by the whole team over the past weeks and months. It was great fun racing here again after all those years.”

 

BMW Team RLL Secures Third and Sixth Place on the ALMS GT Grid

Sebring, 16th March 2012. BMW Team RLL completed the first qualifying session of the 2012 American Le Mans Series (ALMS) in Sebring (US) today. Joey Hand (US), at the wheel of the no. 56 BMW M3 GT, set the third-fastest time of 1:59.776 minutes in the ALMS GT category. Jörg Müller (DE) came sixth in the number 155 car. Pole position in the ALMS GT field went to Chevrolet’s Jan Magnussen(DK) in a time of 1:58.996 minutes.

The new seasons for both the ALMS and the FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC) get underway at the “Sebring International Raceway” this weekend. In total, 64 cars will line up at the iconic circuit in Florida.

When the 60th staging of the 12 Hours of Sebring gets underway at 10:30hrs local time (14:30 GMT) on Saturday, the two reigning GT champions, Joey Hand and Dirk Müller (DE), will share the cockpit of their BMW M3 GT with Jonathan Summerton (US). Bill Auberlen (US) and Uwe Alzen (DE) will be in action alongside Jörg Müller in the sister car.

Bobby Rahal (Team Principal): “The front-runners might be a few tenths ahead of us. However, qualifying is one thing, but the race will be a completely different ballgame. It’s tomorrow that it counts. We will try to stay out of trouble, make no mistakes at the pit stops and put in consistent lap times. And then we will have to wait and see how the race develops.”

Joey Hand (BMW M3 GT – No. 56): “I love qualifying the car and the bit of extra tension that comes along with it. Overall I was really happy with the car. The Dunlop tyres worked very well. For the first time our rivals showed their full potential, so there’s quite a lot of work ahead of us. However, in tomorrow’s race it will be all about consistency. And in this respect I know just how strong our team is. The race will definitely be a completely different affair.”

Jörg Müller (BMW M3 GT – No. 155): “This wasn’t a perfect qualifying for me, but we all know that grid positions are not too important in a 12-hour race. Our plan was to set our fastest time on lap three or four. The Dunlop tyres got better and better, but towards the end our tyre pressure wasn’t 100 per cent right, although I had been convinced that our strategy had been the right one. But unfortunately this wasn’t the case. Nevertheless, I think that we will be able to raise our game in tomorrow’s race.”

BMW Team RLL Kicks Off the ALMS Season in Sebring

BMW Team RLL launches the defence of its titles in the GT class of the American Le Mans Series (ALMS) at the 12 Hours of Sebring (US) this Saturday. The “Sebring International Raceway” is the oldest circuit in North America and this year hosts the spectacular endurance race for the 60th time.

This is not the only important anniversary this year: BMW M is celebrating its 40th birthday in 2012. A BMW M3 has triumphed in the GT class at Sebring on four occasions – 1997, 1998, 2001 and 2011. BMW also has two overall victories to its name. In 1975 the BMW 3.0 CSL won in Florida, while the BMW V12 LMR prototype crossed the line first after 12 hours in 1999.

Joey Hand (US) and Dirk Müller (DE) return to the ALMS as reigning GT champions. This year they will once again alternate behind the wheel of the no. 56 BMW M3 GT. Twenty three-year-old Jonathan Summerton (US) will join them as the third driver in Sebring, and will also line up at a further three races over the course of the season.

The no.55 BMW M3 GT, which finished runner-up in Sebring last season, will be driven by Bill Auberlen (US) and Jörg Müller (DE). Auberlen has finished third in the Drivers’ Championship for the last two seasons. Jörg Müller is contesting his first ALMS season since 2001, when he won the GT title in the BMW M3 GTR. BMW Team RLL has called on the services of another old hand as this car’s third driver, in the form of Uwe Alzen (DE). The German is also due to start at the “Petit Le Mans” in Road Atlanta (US).

Jens Marquardt (BMW Motorsport Director):
“This weekend BMW Team RLL gets down to business in the American Le Mans Series for the first time since it won its titles in 2011. Everyone has worked hard through the winter to ensure that we remain successful with the BMW M3 GT this season. We will be the team to beat, but we are ready for that challenge. I am delighted that we will once again be represented by such an experienced and impressive team of drivers. Everything is in place for us to enjoy another strong year. Now we are all excited to see how the balance of power pans out in Sebring.”

Bobby Rahal (Team Principal):

“We’ve made a number of changes this season. Although not as outwardly obvious as in previous years, we have continued to develop the BMW M3 GT for this season. For 2012, most of the improvements are under the skin to take advantage of some of the new tyres that Dunlop has developed. As we’ve done in every season, the driver line-up has been modified with Jörg Müller replacing Dirk Werner for the season. We’ve also added Uwe Alzen as a third driver at both Sebring and Petit. I’m also excited to add Jonathan Summerton for four races to substitute for Joey. Along with my son Graham, Jonathan was one of the first six Formula BMW USA scholarship winners in 2004. I believe Jonathan will do a good job for us. Anchoring the line-up will, of course, be Bill Auberlen and Dirk Müller.”

Bill Auberlen (BMW M3 GT – No. 55):

“I can’t wait for Sebring. I am looking forward to co-driving with Jörg Müller this year and have my fingers crossed that we find success together. The competition is going to be brutal, but we know our cars very well and the team which will work to find every advantage.”

Jörg Müller (BMW M3 GT – No. 55):

“I have great memories of Sebring. I won there with the BMW V12 LMR in 1999, then won the GT class two years later with the BMW M3 GTR. The season kicks off with a real highlight at Sebring. I always feel very at home in America. Bill Auberlen, Uwe Alzen and I have experienced a lot in motor racing, and our wealth of experience will stand us in good stead.”

Uwe Alzen (BMW M3 GT – No. 55):

“What could be better than to start the season in sunny Florida, and at a fantastic event like the 12 Hours of Sebring. This circuit is a law unto itself. It covers a long distance, and we have to contend with the prototypes, so it will not be an easy race. I spend a lot of time in Florida every year, so this is something of a home race for me.”

Joey Hand (BMW M3 GT – No. 56):

“I am more than ready for Sebring this year as I’ve spent more time testing than ever before. We have tested the ALMS M3 GT twice at Sebring already and I have only recently returned from the test in the BMW M3 DTM in Portugal. Added to that was a week of physical training in Italy. I would love to get the ALMS season started like we did last year with a 1-2 finish. Momentum is important in racing and there is no reason why BMW Team RLL can’t keep our championship form rolling on this year.”

Dirk Müller (BMW M3 GT – No. 56):

“Finally the waiting is over. Everyone at BMW Motorsport, BMW Team RLL and Dunlop is highly motivated to defend the titles we won last year. The preparations have been excellent and I am very optimistic that we will have another successful season. It certainly won't be easy, but we are well prepared. It feels great to be the team to beat again.

Jonathan Summerton (BMW M3 GT – No. 56):

“I appreciate the opportunity BMW has given me and will do everything I can to support the BMW Team RLL programme at Sebring. I have had two productive tests with the team and feel ready for my first sports car endurance race.”

 

Press Contact: Jörg Kottmeier, Phone: +49 (0)170 5666 112, joerg.kottmeier@bmw.de
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Thomas Plucinsky, Phone: +201 406 4801, thomas.plucinsky@bmwna.com

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