Sato Heads to Detroit With Momentum from a Strong Run in the Indy 500

Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing – 21st Season
Pre-Race Notes
Chevrolet Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix – Raceway at Belle Isle Park
Round 6 of 16 in the 2012 IZOD IndyCar Series


DATE:                                      June 1 – 3, 2012
QUALIFYING BROADCAST:  None; LIVE on www.indycar.com (timing & scoring with audio commen­tary)
RACE BROADCAST:              Live on Sunday, June 3 at 3:30 a.m. ET on ABC
RADIO BROADCAST:            The race will air on IMS Radio Network, XM channel 94 & Sirius channel 212
TRACK LAYOUT:                    2.07-mile, 14-turn street course
RACE LENGTH:                      90 laps / 184.5 miles
2008 WINNER:                        Justin Wilson
2008 POLESITTER:                Scott Dixon (102.007)
SATO’S HIGHEST
ROAD/STREET START:          Pole at Edmonton in 2011
SATO’S HIGHEST
ROAD/STREET FINISH:          Third at Sao Paulo, Brazil 2012
SATO IN DETROIT:                 First race here
RLL’S TOP START/
FINISH AT DETROIT:              2nd / 1st – both in 1992 by Bobby Rahal in the inau­gural Belle Isle event

NEWS & NOTES:

1 WIN, 1 FRONT ROW START, 2 PODIUMS IN 12 BELLE ISLE RACES FOR RLL RACING
The Chevrolet Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix will mark the IZOD IndyCar Series’ third visit to Detroit, but its first since 2008. The Motor City hosted Indy car racing from 1989 – 91 in Down­town Detroit. The race moved to Belle Isle Park from 1992 – 2001 and 2007 – 2008.

The 2012 event will mark the 13th year for Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing (RLL) to compete at the Raceway at Belle Isle Park.  The team’s highest start of second place and highest finish of first in the event came in the inau­gural running on Belle Isle in 1992 by Bobby Rahal.  In total, the team has earned two podiums (Max Papis 2000 – 2nd), three top-five finishes and nine top-10’s here (chart avail­able). Prior to 2012, the team prepared a total of 20 entries for drivers such as Bobby Rahal (1992 – 1998), Mike Groff (1993 – 94), Raul Boesel (1995), Bryan Herta (1996 – 99), Max Papis (1999 – 2001), Kenny Brack (2000 – 01), Ryan Hunter-Reay (2007 – 08).  The No. 15 entry for Takuma Sato will bring that total to 21 in 2012.

Before he started a race team in 1992, Bobby Rahal competed in down­town Detroit from 1989 – 1991 and earned two second place finishes (’90 and ’91) and retired in 18th place in 1989. In total, he competed in Detroit 10 times (three down­town, seven on Belle Isle).

RLL CONTENDERS FOR INDY 500 WIN ON FINAL LAPS IN 2011 AND 2012
The team was in contention to win the Indy 500 as recent as 2011 and 2012. In 2011 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.  In 2012, Sato led the third most laps at 31 and pulled along­side even­tual winner Dario Fran­chitti in Turn 1 on the final lap to take the lead but lack of trac­tion and/or light contact led to a crash and he finished 17th.  Sato is 12th in series stand­ings with a total of 100 points entering Round 6 of 16.  Had he won or finished second in the Indy 500 he would be in the top-five of the standings. 

SATO ON THE INDY 500 – HINDSIGHT
“Obvi­ously I am disap­pointed in the result but it was defi­nitely one of my best races and I deeply enjoyed the whole race.  The thing is, the Indy 500 is all about winning and I was and we were going for the win. No regrets at all. I attacked because it was the last oppor­tu­nity since it was the last lap. It had to be done at Turn1 because of the wind direc­tion. We had a tail wind at Turn 2 on Sunday which made it diffi­cult to follow the car in front due to loss of down­force with some washout pushing and I had been racing with the Ganassi cars who were quick down the straight for many laps but I wasn’t able to over­take them at Turn 3 so I knew it had to be done at Turn 1.  There was an oppor­tu­nity when I caught Dario at the end of the main straight, dove in and we were side by side just turning in to Turn 1. It was tight and close but I was forced to go to the very low lane below the white line and lost grip.  I was not happy because we didn’t win and felt bad espe­cially for boys and team who did outstanding job but was happy to see all the big smiles from the fans and incred­ible posi­tive recep­tion. It was a very exciting race and I would like to say a ‘Big thank you’ to all who supported me.”

SATO ON DEBUT AT DETROIT’S BELLE ISLE COURSE IN 2012
Sato will compete in his first race in Detroit in his third season in the series. His highest road/street course start is pole at Edmonton in 2011 and his highest finish is third in Brazil in 2012.  He is looking forward to driving at Belle Isle for the first time.
      
“The Detroit Grand Prix is a famous event in history so I know a little about it but only what I saw on TV. It looks like a beau­tiful course as it is set up in the middle of the park on an island on the Detroit River. It’s quite spec­tac­ular scenery.  The team has previous expe­ri­ence at Belle Isle so I have some data from that but I don’t really know the details of the course until we will have a track walk with the engi­neers Thursday.”

SATO ONFASCINATINGSEASON TO DATE
So far this season, Takuma has led two of the four road/street races (St. Pete and Long Beach) as well as three of five overall so far with a series best finish of third in Sao Paulo, Brazil. He retired with mechan­ical failure after leading at St. Pete and again at Barber Motor­sports Park.  He was third on the final lap in Long Beach when he was hit by Ryan Hunter-Reay who was assessed an “avoid­able contact” penalty and when he saw the check­ered flag for the first – and only time — this season in Sao Paulo, Brazil, he earned his best finish in his IndyCar career of third place. Despite only seeing the check­ered flag in Brazil, Sato has had a strong season to date.
      
“It has been a very posi­tive, fasci­nating season so far. Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing has a long history but we are still a new team because it is a new group of people working together and learning a lot. I feel we are making good progress after every single race and it is a very exciting chal­lenge. I love it.”

SATO ON THE TEAM’S COMPETITIVENESS ON OTHER ROAD/STREET COURSES TRANSFERING TO DETROIT
Sato will be one of 12 drivers to compete on the 2.07-mile Belle Isle course for the first time in an Indy car.  Others include Rubens Barrichello, Sebastien Bour­dais, Mike Conway, Simona de Silve­stro, JR Hilde­brand, James Hinch­cliffe, James Jakes, Charlie Kimball, Katherine Legge, Josef Newgarden and Simon Page­naud.  Although many teams and drivers have competed on this course before, it will be the firs time to do so with the all-new DW12 chassis.  Based on previous perfor­mance in 2012, the team has a good road/street course base­line setup and hopes that knowl­edge will trans­late favor­ably to the 14-turn Belle Isle course.
      
“Some of the knowl­edge we have gained of the DW12 will apply to Detroit,” said Sato.  “We seem to under­stand the philos­ophy of the Fire­stone street course tire well and the funda­mental set up won’t be so different from the other street courses.  However, Detroit has a couple of high speed corners and quite a unique track layout so we will see.”

SATO ON HOW LONG IT WILL TAKE TO LEARN THE BELLE ISLE  COURSE
“It depends on my mood!  I’m kidding. Usually I can learn a course pretty quick.  A couple of laps give you quite a lot of idea (about the layout), then you just need to work on the details.”
 

SATO ON THE IMPORTANCE OF MOMENTUM WITH SIX RACES IN SEVEN WEEKS
The Chevrolet Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix is the only road/street course in a stretch of five-straight races that began with the Indi­anapolis 500 this past Sunday. Looking forward, the Detroit race is also the start of a stretch that includes five races in the next six weeks that begins and ends with street races in Detroit and Toronto (July 8).  In the middle of this is a test at Iowa Speedway on Tuesday, June 12 for Sato. The ability to carry over momentum from strong finishes in these races can make a big impact on the season-ending stand­ings and Sato’s chance of bettering his series best finish of third in Brazil on April 29.
      
“We defi­nitely have good, posi­tive momentum and our moti­va­tion is very high,” said Sato. “We just need to make sure everyone is not worn-out phys­i­cally and keeping good health.  Other­wise we should be very happy to go racing!”

 

- RLL –