Sato Led 16 Laps in the Toyota GP of Long Beach and Was Third on the Final Lap When “Avoidable Contact” by Hunter-Reay Dropped Him to Eighth

Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing
Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach – Streets of Long Beach, Calif.
IZOD IndyCar Series
RACE NOTES/QUOTES – Sunday, April 15, 2012



TAKUMA SATO, No. 15 Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Dallara/Honda/Firestone:  “I haven’t seen the checkered flag yet this season. It was a very exciting race; right from the start — a hell of a race.  We started from the primary Firestone tires and I was surrounded by drivers on alternate tires and it was a very hard situation for us but I kept the position. On the restart, I was overtaking and gained a position and when I was on the alternate tires I was driving like crazy; passing Will Power and others and then I led the race.  On the last stint we had to work on the fuel mileage and on the very last lap Ryan Hunter-Reay basically took me out.  There was not enough depth on his overtaking maneuver.  He had a chance for the last few corners so it’s very disappointing to finish the race this way.  Again we showed good performance and we will carry this good momentum to Brazil.”


FAST FACTS: Made his third start at this track and almost bettered his series-best finish of fourth place at Mid-Ohio (2010). Due to series penalties for unapproved engine changes, he started sixth after qualifying 13th.  By Lap 12 of the 85-lap race he had moved into third place and took the lead on Lap 20 when a good portion of the field, including two cars ahead, pit under caution. After his first stop on Lap 30, he passed eventual winner Will Power and moved up from 12th place into third by Lap 41.  He reclaimed the lead on Lap 48 and held it until the second pit stop on Lap 56.  He was in third place when Power passed him and was later passed by eventual second place finisher Simon Pagenaud. Once the field made their final stops, he was in third place and on the final lap, Ryan Hunter-Reay hit Sato’s left rear in Turn 8 and Sato stopped on course.  He was scored with an eighth place finish after being restarted because the majority of the field was stuck behind a multi-car crash that made the hairpin impassable.  Series officials deemed Hunter-Reay’s contact “avoidable” and gave him a 30 –second penalty which dropped him from third to sixth… Sato’s previous best start here was 19th and previous best finish was 18th – both for KV Racing Technology in 2010… His best road/street course qualifying was pole at Edmonton in 2011 and his best finish is fourth at Mid-Ohio which is also his best overall career IndyCar finish… Is 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. In total, he made eight passes on the start/restarts and during the race. He pitted from the lead for his final stop and suffered a mechanical failure that resulted in a 22nd place finish… Also made four passes at Barber but retired with mechanical failure… 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).  Led a total of 61 laps from 2010-11… Sato is ranked 16th in the 2012 IndyCar Series standings with a total of 48 points.

BOBBY RAHAL, team co-owner: “I am very disappointed for Takuma; he deserved better. I was a tough weekend for the crew with missing a full day on Friday with new cars. I was really pleased with the job Takuma and the crew did.  The engineering group of Gerry (Hughes), Jay (O’Connell) and Wayne (Gross) are really working well together on the stand.  We just need some good luck because, right now we aren’t getting it.  But at least we are running up front and at least we are competitive. That’s the biggest thing; at least we are competing at the front of the grid. It will come.”

RAHAL LETTERMAN LANIGAN RACING AT LONG BEACH It was the team’s 13th Indy car race in Long Beach and FIRST for RLL to compete in the Indy car race here since 2003 when Michel Jourdain, Jr. won pole, led a race high 48 laps and was in the lead when his car stuck in gear on his final stop with seven laps to go and ultimately retired in 15th place.  In total, the team won three poles (Bryan Herta 1998, Jimmy Vasser 2002, Michel Jourdain, Jr. 2003); made five front row starts including an all-Team Rahal front row in 1998 (2nd – Rahal 1998, Kenny Brack 2001); earned their best finish of second place three times (Rahal 1992-1993, Vasser 2002) and earned five podiums (2nd – Rahal 1992-1993, Vasser 2002; 3rd – Herta 1998-1999).

RLL IS ONLY TEAM TO COMPETE IN LONG BEACH ICS/ALMS “DOUBLEHEADER”… This weekend’s race marked the first time for the team to compete in two series on the same weekend in almost five years.  RLL’s ALMS and Indy car teams last competed at the same venue on September 1-2, 2007 at Detroit’s Raceway at Belle Isle.  BMW Team RLL fields two BMW M3’s for drivers Joey Hand, Dirk Müller, Jörg Müller and Bill Auberlen. In four years of competing in Long Beach, BMW Team RLL has finished third in 2009 and 2010 and won in 2011 with Hand and Dirk Müller and finished second yesterday (Hand / Dirk Müller).

NEXT UP:  The series will take next weekend off as the race equipment will be packed and shipped via air cargo to Sao Paulo, Brazil for the Sao Paulo Indy 300.  It will be the first time for the team to compete in Sao Paulo and Sato’s third.  He qualified 10th for the 2010 and 2011 races and his best finish of eighth place came in 2011 after he led 23 laps in the rain-soaked, and then-postponed event.