Sato Heads to the Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio With Momentum From Second Place in Previous Race

Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing – 21st Season
Pre-Race Notes
Honda Indy 200 – Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course
Round 12 of 15 in the 2012 IZOD IndyCar Series
 
DATE:                                         August 3 – 5, 2012
QUALIFYING BROADCAST:     LIVE on www.indycar.com (timing & scoring with audio commen­tary)
RACE BROADCAST:                Live on Sunday, August 5 at 12:30 p.m. ET on ABC
RADIO BROADCAST:               The race will air on IMS Radio Network, SiriusXM (XM 94 & Sirius 212)
TRACK LAYOUT:                      2.258-mile, 13-turn road course
RACE LENGTH:                         85 laps / 191.25 miles
2011 WINNER:                           Scott Dixon
2011 POLESITTER:                   Scott Dixon (119.405 mph)
SATO’S HIGHEST
ROAD/STREET START:            Pole at Edmonton in 2011
SATO’S HIGHEST
ROAD/STREET FINISH:            2nd at Edmonton 2012 (4th at Mid-Ohio 2011 was best prior to 2012 with RLL)
SATO AT MID-OHIO:                 In two events here, Sato’s best start is 3rd in 2010 and best finish is 4th in 2011
RLL’S TOP START/
FINISH AT MID-OHIO:               Highest start is pole (Herta — 1997); highest finish is 3rd (Rahal — 1997, ’98)
 
 
NEWS & NOTES:
 
15TH INDYCAR RACE AT MID-OHIO FOR RLL RACING
The Honda Indy 200 will mark the 15th Indy car event for Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing (RLL) here and first since 2008 when Ryan Hunter-Reay started 15th and finished 10th for the team. The team also competed in the Atlantic Series race here in 2003 with Danica Patrick, has competed in ALMS races here in 2007 and from 2009 – 2011 and one SCCA event in 2008 as part of the ALMS weekend.  The highest IndyCar finish for the team here is two third place finishes (Rahal 1997, 1998) and the highest start is pole (Herta 1997).  Another front row start came in 1999 (Herta; 2nd).  Prior to the 2012 event, the team prepared a total of 23 Indy car entries for drivers Bobby Rahal (1992 – 98), Mike Groff (1994), Raul Boesel (1995), Bryan Herta (1996 – 99), Max Papis (1999 – 2001), Jimmy Vasser (2002), Michel Jour­dain Jr. (2002 – 03) and Ryan Hunter-Reay (2007 – 2008). The team also prepared a Toyota Atlantic entry (Danica Patrick 2003), seven entries for ALMS events in 2007 and 2009 – 2011, and one SCCA entry in 2007 (details avail­able upon request).  The team has earned TWO Indy car podiums (3rd – Rahal 1997, 1998), 9 top-five’s and 13 top-10 Indy car finishes at the track as well as three ALMS podiums (3rd – 2009, 2010, 2011).  The No. 15 entry for Takuma Sato will bring the Indy car total to 24 entries in 2012. 
 
SATO ON THE CHALLENGES OF MID-OHIO AND HIS BEST SERIES FINISH PRIOR TO JOINING RLL
The 2012 Honda Indy 200 will mark Sato’s third race at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. Prior to joining Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing in 2012, his previous series-best finish was fourth at Mid-Ohio in 2011 after he started ninth.  He qual­i­fied third in 2010 but retired in 25th due to contact.  Both races were with KV Racing Tech­nology. Since joining RLL he has bettered his 2011 Mid-Ohio finish of fourth place – first with a third place in Round 4 in Sao Paulo, Brazil and again with a second place finish in the previous race in Edmonton.  He enjoys the Mid-Ohio course and hopes to carry the momentum to this event.
“It was a tough-one,” said Sato of last year’s race. “It was a good race but we did every­thing we could and still ONLY finished 4th which was actu­ally quite disap­pointing espe­cially I was very compet­i­tive in my first year here so we expected more.  Mid-Ohio has got a bit of every­thing. There are high-speed corners, a rela­tively long straight, heavy braking, and a good complex (series of corners) with eleva­tion changes.  Some of the corners don’t have a big run-off so it makes for a good chal­lenge but it’s a typical beau­tiful road course. You need a good rhythm to go fast espe­cially in the complex part. A couple of corners are blind and the braking zone for one of them is off camber so that makes for a good chal­lenge too.”
 
SATO ON WHAT IT WOULD MEAN TO BRING RLL THEIR FIRST INDYCAR WIN AT MID-OHIO
“Any win means a lot but I think a win at Mid-Ohio would be very nice as Rahal Letterman Lanigan has a race shop very close by.  And I am sure there will be many guests and family members of the team that come this weekend. Put no more pres­sure (on me) please!” Sato added jokingly.
 
SATO ON EXPECTATIONS FOR MID-OHIO AFTERSECOND PLACE FINISH IN THE PREVIOUS RACE
“Well, we should be very compet­i­tive. We were gener­ally quite strong in street course races and not so much on road courses but I thought it was quite a posi­tive test last week and I feel team has good momentum too. Mid-Ohio is typi­cally very close racing and everyone else will be very compet­i­tive too but there is no reason why we won’t be there right on the top group.”
 
SATO FINDS SIMILARITIES BETWEEN MID-OHIO AND OTHER COURSES HE RACES ON IN ENGLAND
“Perhaps it’s not a huge track like some of the Formula One tracks where I raced but I like this little Mid-Ohio course.  It reminds me of the time when I was racing in Great Britain.  The track scenery and atmos­phere has got so many simi­lar­i­ties; like maybe an Oulton Park. The fans here are great, very knowl­edge­able and genuine big motor racing fans which is very much like those British F3 days too!”
 
SATO ON THE MID-OHIO TEST – A FEW DAYS LATER
A total of 24 drivers tested at Mid-Ohio last Thursday, July 26, including Takuma Sato. After a few days to absorb the expe­ri­ence, Sato is pleased with the outcome and expects the infor­ma­tion that has been analyzed by Tech­nical Director Jay O’Connell, Race Engi­neer Gerry Hughes and assis­tant engi­neer Wayne Gross will put the team many steps ahead when the first prac­tice session takes place on Friday, August 3.
            “It was a produc­tive test. Although we could achieve prob­ably only half of what we wanted to due to the weather condi­tions, still it was very valu­able for us — specif­i­cally at Mid-Ohio but gener­ally on other courses too. We haven’t done any testing at road courses after the season started so we have a long list of things to go through and try.  So even though we only tested a few items, our initial set-up here is much more prepared than if we had not run. It was very good test to under­stand how this new DW12 works at Mid-Ohio.”
 
SATO ON IF THE TEST PROVIDED THE USUAL ADVANTAGE SINCE EVERYONE TESTED
“Maybe the test was not neces­sarily an advan­tage since everyone tested but it defi­nitely reduced our disad­van­tages. Our engi­neers are care­fully analyzing all the data we collected from the test and that gives us good under­standing of the car and the track char­ac­ter­is­tics. Our initial set-up this weekend is much higher quality than at other events so that we can go straight into the outstanding testing programs right away when prac­tice starts.”
 
SATO ON THE IMPORTANCE OF EARNINGGOOD MID-OHIO PIT LOCATION FROM EDMONTON QUALIFYING
“Mid-Ohio has very tight pit boxes so every­thing will help. It will be useful even in prac­tice that we won’t need to wait until everyone goes (on track) to make space so we can make the most of the session time. But no doubt about, the race will be the most bene­fi­cial time for us and we will race hard to make use of that for sure. I am very much looking forward to it.”
 
SATO’S SEASON TO DATE
Sato has run compet­i­tively in most races to date this season although his 13th place rank in series stand­ings with a total of 216 points does not reflect that perfor­mance.  He is only 21 points from a top-10 rank (10th: G. Rahal, 237 pts) and 52 from fifth place Hinch­cliffe who has 268.  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.   
 
MID-OHIO DOUBLE-HEADER FOR RAHAL LETTERMAN LANIGAN RACING
The team will compete in two races at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.  BMW Team RLL will compete in the GT-class of Saturday’s Mid-Ohio Sports Car Chal­lenge ALMS race from 1 – 4 and the Indy car team will take the green flag on Sunday’s for the Honda Indy 200 IZOD IndyCar Series event.  BMW Team RLL fields two BMW M3’s for drivers Joey Hand, Dirk Müller, Jörg Müller and Bill Auberlen. The team has finished on the podium (third) each of the past three years and started from pole last year (Hand/D. Müller).
 
STARS SUPPORT RAHAL’S “RALLY FOR THE RANCHWEDNESDAY TO BENEFIT THE BUCKEYE RANCH
The inau­gural “Rally for the Ranch,” hosted by the Bobby Rahal Foun­da­tion for the benefit of The Buckeye Ranch, will take place at Easton Town Centre on Wed., Aug. 1.  The honoree for this inau­gural event is three-time Indy 500 winner and racing legend Johnny Ruther­ford. The event will show­case 75 of the area’s most exotic collectible auto­mo­biles from local car clubs and private collec­tors and will support programs at the Ranch to help area youths and their fami­lies dealing with behav­ioral issues. The event will begin at 4 p.m. on the streets of Easton with classic and collectible cars featured as well as race cars.  To view the display of cars will be free-of-charge and open to the public for view until 8 p.m. In addi­tion, the fundraising compo­nent will be a private dinner by the Bobby Rahal Foun­da­tion begin­ning with cock­tails at 6:30 p.m. at the Hilton Easton. Ruther­ford will be honored during the dinner program.  Current RLL drivers Joey Hand, Dirk Müller, Bill Auberlen and Jörg Müller are expected to attend in addi­tion to former team drivers Graham Rahal, Bryan Herta, Ryan Hunter-Reay and Tom Milner.  In addi­tion, other drivers who are lending their support include Dario and Marino Fran­chitti, Justin Wilson, Katherine Legge, Graf Klaus, Lucas Luhr, Martin Plowman, team owner Mike Shank and others.
 
 – RLL -