Sato Carries Momentum of Best Series Result to the 96th Indianapolis 500

Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing – 21st Season & 15th Indy 500
Pre-Race Notes – TAKUMA SATO
Indi­anapolis 500 – Indi­anapolis Motor Speedway
Round 5 of 16 in the 2012 IZOD IndyCar Series

 

DATE:                                      Opening Day — May 12; Pole Day – May 19; Race Day – May 27

QUALIFYING BROADCAST:  May 19 from 11 a.m. – 2:30 p.m. ET and 4:30 – 6:30 p.m. and on May 20 from 12:00 – 6:30

                                                 p.m. ET on NBC Sports Network and www.indycar.com (timing & scoring)

RACE BROADCAST:              Live on Sunday, May 27 at 11:00 a.m. ET on ABC

RADIO BROADCAST:            The race will air on IMS Radio Network, XM channel 94 & Sirius channel 212

TRACK LAYOUT:                    2.5-mile oval

RACE LENGTH:                      200 laps / 500 miles 

2011 WINNER:                         Dan Wheldon

2011 POLESITTER:                 Alex Tagliani (2:38.2613 average; 227.472 mph avg.)

SATO’S HIGHEST
OVAL START:                          Pole at Iowa Speedway in 2011

SATO’S HIGHEST
OVAL FINISH:                          Fifth at Texas Motor Speedway in 2011 (race 1)

SATO IN INDY:                        Highest Indy 500 start is 10th (2011) and highest finish is 20th in 2011. Competed in five

                                                  F1 races here, including his best start/finish of third place in 2004 – the same year RLL won the Indy 500.

RLL’S TOP START/
FINISH AT INDY:                     Won the 2004 race from pole with Buddy Rice

NEWS & NOTES:

POLE &WIN AT INDIANAPOLIS MOTOR SPEEDWAY (IMS) FOR RLL RACING
The 2012 entry will mark the 15th year for the team in the event.  Prior to 2012, the team prepared a total of 26 entries for drivers such as Bobby Rahal (1992 – 1995), Mike Groff (1994), Raul Boesel (1995), Jimmy Vasser (2002 – 2003), Kenny Brack (2003, 2005), Buddy Rice (2004, 2006; DNC 2005 due to prac­tice crash), Vitor Meira (2004, 2005), Roger Yasakawa (2004), Danica Patrick (2005, 2006), Jeff Simmons (2006, 2007), Scott Sharp (2007), Ryan Hunter-Reay (2008), Oriol Servia (2009), Graham Rahal (2010), Bertrand Baguette (2011) and Jay Howard (2011).  The No. 15 entry for Takuma Sato and No. 30 Office Depot / RLL Racing entry for Michel Jour­dain will bring that total to 28 in 2012.

The team’s highest start and finish in the event came in 2004 when Buddy Rice won from pole. In addi­tion, the team has earned a total of four podiums (2nd – Meira 2005; 3rd – Rahal 1994, 1995). The team was in contention to win the race as recent as 2011 when Bertrand Baguette led laps 139 – 140 and laps 189 – 197 of the 200 lap race. Had a caution come our before Baguette was forced to pit for a splash of fuel, he might have been the victor. The race ulti­mately ended under caution when JR Hilde­brand crashed on the front straight while in the lead on the final lap.

SATO AT INDIANAPOLIS MOTOR SPEEDWAY
Sato will compete in his EIGHTH race at Indi­anapolis Motor Speedway (IMS) and THIRD Indi­anapolis 500 event.  IMS is the site of his best finish of third place in Formula One in 2004 – the same year RLL Racing won the Indy 500 with Buddy Rice from pole.  He competed in the Indy 500 two times with a best start of 10th in 2011 when he narrowly missed progressing to the Fast Nine and his best finish of 20th came in 2010 – both with KV Racing Tech­nology.  He competed in five F1 races at IMS (2002, 2004 – 2007; chart avail­able).  All eight races will have been powered by Honda.

SATO IN 2012 – BEST SERIES FINISH TO DATE
Sato led two (St. Peters­burg, Long Beach) of the first three races in the 2012 IZOD IndyCar Series season but had yet to see a check­ered flag. When he was able to do so, he earned his best career finish to date in the series of third place in Sao Paulo, Brazil, and vaulted to his highest rank in the series of seventh place with a total of 83 points entering Round 5 of 16 – the Indi­anapolis 500.


Takuma answers a few ques­tions on his season to date and the upcoming 96th running of the Indi­anapolis 500:

SATO ON HIS BEST SERIES FINISH TO DATE OF THIRD PLACE IN THE PREVIOUS RACE IN BRAZIL
“I am still just very excited about the result.  A big part of that was the relief that we achieved the result we had been waiting on since the begin­ning of the season. It’s espe­cially great to get the result before coming to the Indy 500. That’s what we needed. It’s a good source of moti­va­tion for the team. I was very pleased with the reac­tion of the fans and media all over the world. It felt very good to share the moment with them and give some­thing back in exchange for their loyalty and support. There were just tons of messages on my website and Twitter.”

SATO ON THE TEAM’S PROGRESS SINCE THE START OF THE SEASON
“It’s a new group of people working together for the first time and we get stronger with every race. There are so many things to learn about each other when new people start working together.  The result in Brazil was a little bit extreme compared to the other races because the first three races we were able to show our perfor­mance capa­bility but unfor­tu­nately we had a couple of mechan­ical prob­lems. Other than that, we were racing up front. Brazil is a great example; we were very strong and our strategy was very strong and we raced really hard and were able to finish in a very high posi­tion from the back of the grid. It was a fantastic result.  The pit stops are improving and our commu­ni­ca­tion is improving.  Basi­cally every­thing is improving each time we work together. I’m sure our improve­ments are part of the learning curve that was very steep. There is still a lot more to come and I am looking forward to it.  I went through this in F1.  It’s great fun to see all of the improve­ments. You can see it and feel it – a lot!  The team is working really hard. If things didn’t go the way we wanted, we have been able to learn from those things and come back stronger.  I am very happy with the progress that we have seen.”

SATO ON HIS THIRD PLACE FINISH IN THE FORMULA ONE RACE AT IMS IN 2004
“Indi­anapolis Motor Speedway is a special place.  When I first came to the Indy 500, I already had a special memory of the place from 2004 when I finished on the podium. That was a great day.  It wasn’t an easy finish. At one stage, in the middle of the race, we were at the back of the grid.  Every time I come back to Indy I think of that memory. It was very special and now coming for the Indy 500 – there are no words to describe how special it is. The event is always very impressive.”

SATO ON THE INDY 500 AND HIS FIRST MEMORIES OF THE RACE
“The 2010 race was my first expe­ri­ence at the Indy 500 and it is just a massive event with such a large group of spec­ta­tors. I had never raced in front of such a large crowd.  It was very impres­sive. To go through the weeks of prac­tice, then qual­i­fying and the media tour and all of the things was exciting. The build up is just unbe­liev­able. Then on race day, the events before the start are very impres­sive. It was an exciting moment.
            “All over the world, every­body knows about the Indy 500. It’s such an iconic event.  I saw it a couple of times on TV as a kid in Japan but it is completely different in person. You can’t feel the excite­ment as much on TV as when you are there. That’s why 2010 was so great.”

ON FAMILY AND FRIENDS WHO WILL WATCH THE RACE
“Gaora network will air the race live in Japan in the middle of the night so I think there will be many people who have a short amount of sleep that night. And in Monaco where I live, it will take place evening into night­time so I am sure my family and friends will watch on TV.”

SATO ON THE DW 12 OVAL PACKAGE AND PROGRESS SINCE THE IMS TEST IN APRIL
“Because the car is brand new, the test we had at the Speedway was very impor­tant.  We just did a basic, funda­mental session to gather data and it helped a lot to under­stand the basic setup we will start with this weekend.”

SATO ON WHAT WOULD IT MEAN TO WIN THE INDY 500
“It would mean a lot to win the Indy 500! I haven’t won an IndyCar race yet so any win would be special but winning the Indy 500 would be even more so because it is such an iconic event. I can’t imagine how it would be to win. Certainly that is the ulti­mate goal and what we will race for.” 

- RLL -