Sato Earned His Best Series Finish of Third in the Itaipava Sao Paulo Indy 300

Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing
Itaipava São Paulo Indy 300 Nestlé – Streets of Sao Paulo, Brazil
IZOD IndyCar Series
RACE NOTES/QUOTES – Sunday, April 29, 2012



TAKUMA SATO, No. 15 Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Dallara/Honda/Firestone:  “It is a fantastic feeling to finish third. It was an eventful race starting from the back of the grid.  I needed to fight back so hard to get the posi­tions back.  The first part of the race was really hard, not neces­sarily on the over­taking but to follow the strategy, and at one stage we had a pit speed penalty but we grad­u­ally moved up.  One-by-one we over­took cars which was very exciting.  In the end, the restart got me into a great place; it was very exciting for me. There is always oppor­tu­nity on a restart but you never know until you hit the brake because there is no plan basi­cally.  When Helio and Dario were in front of me, two wide, initially I thought there was no chance but when I saw their braking point was earlier than I expected I saw a little oppor­tu­nity to dive inside. I was confi­dent that I would make the corner so I was very excited. Finally, after a diffi­cult weekend, it is a relief to get this result and I am really pleased to bring the team a third place and see the first check­ered flag of the season. It was a great day.”


FAST FACTS: After starting 25th, Sato over­took four cars on the opening lap but was chal­lenged by a pit speed penalty after his first stop that dropped him to the back again.  Once a caution came out the effect was negated.  Later he jumped from 19th to 11th on a restart that spun Dario Fran­chitti around and involved many cars.  After he made his second stop, he came out in 16th place and began to pass cars one at a time. He worked his way up to second place before his final pit stop on green Lap 54 of 75 and returned to the track in 12th and worked his way forward as others pitted.  On the restart with seven laps to go, he dashed on the inside and passed the cars of Fran­chitti and Helio Castron­eves in Turn 1 for third place. Behind him, there was another multi-car acci­dent that brought out the final caution. It retuned to green on Lap 71 and he held the posi­tion to earn his best series finish of third place… Is Sato’s first season at RLL and third in IndyCar… Sato led two of the first three races but failed to finish due to mechan­ical failure (St. Pete & Barber) and “avoid­able contact” by Hunter-Reay ( Long Beach) on the final lap en route to a career best finish of third… Moved from a 16th-place rank in series points to seventh with 83.

GERRY HUGHES, Race Engi­neer for Sato:  (On the move Sato made for third:) “That move was classic Takuma in the fact that he never gives up.  I think he was absolutely and utterly on the limit going into Turn 1 but he made it stick so fair play to him.  Going into the race this after­noon was always going to be diffi­cult and we needed an element of luck to make any progress from starting 25th on the grid after the engine failure we had yesterday.  He drove a sensible race although we had a pit speed penalty which rele­gated us back to 26th and we had to do it all over again.  To finish in third place after starting at the back of the grid shows that we had a compet­i­tive car and he drove a sensible race.  We followed a classic three-stop strategy and were helped by the yellows and managed to achieve our goal of finishing the race first and fore­most and also doing so with a podium.”

RAHAL LETTERMAN LANIGAN RACING AT SAO PAULO This marked the FIRST time for RLL to compete in the Indy car race in Sao Paulo and sixth overall in Brazil.  Team Rahal competed in CART-sanctioned events in Rio de Janeiro from 1996 – 2000 with Bobby Rahal (1996 – 1998), Bryan Herta (1996 – 99), Max Papis (1999 – 00), and Kenny Brack (2000).  The best start for the team on the 1.86-mile, D-shaped oval in Rio was third by Rahal in 1997. The team’s best finish in Brazil is fourth, by Herta (1998) and Papis (1999). Over the 10 entries between 1996 – 00, the team had four top-five and eight top-10 starts as well as two top-five and seven top-10 finishes. (chart avail­able) 

NEXT UP:  The team will return to the United States tonight and begin prepa­ra­tion for the Indi­anapolis 500. Michel Jour­dain will be on track on Thursday, May 10 for refresher laps during Rookie Orien­ta­tion.  Opening Day for the Indy 500 is Saturday, May 11.  RLL won the 2004 Indy 500 from pole with Buddy Rice and team owner Bobby Rahal won the 1986 Indy 500. The team led the closing laps of the 2011 race with Bertrand Baguette but had to pit for fuel with a few laps to go.