Sato Led the Honda Grand Prix of St. Pete Twice But Retired After His Final Stop Due to Mechanical Failure

TAKUMA SATO, No. 15 Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Dallara/Honda/Firestone:  “It was an exciting race!  I’m very pleased to put the Rahal Letterman Lanigan car in that position for their return to IndyCar and it was something I never imagined would happen today; especially after struggling in the practice sessions.  But we made a good improvement in the warm-up today. It was damp conditions so it was hard to know just how good the car was but it did feel good; I was comfortable. I really enjoyed racing today, battling through the field to come up to the front.  Every restart there was lots of overtaking and the guys did a great job and made a good call. I am so disappointed that we had a mechanical failure and couldn’t get the resulted we worked hard for.  But, it was encouraging though.”

FAST FACTS: Sato led two times for a total of 11 laps today. He made his final pit stop from the lead on Lap 71 and after he returned to the track, the car suffered a mechanical failure. The air line that operates the gear box failed due to heat… He passed three cars on the start, three cars on the following restart and two on the next one… Was his third race at this track.  He qualified 11th in 2011 and finished fifth and qualified 11th in 2010 and retired in 22nd place after contact in 2010 – both for KV Racing Technology… Will be Sato’s first season at RLL and third in IndyCar… 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).  Prior to the race he had led 61 laps.

BOBBY RAHAL, team co-owner:  “It was an unfortunate end because we were having a darned good race.  We were leading after passing Dario and guys like that.  Takuma was driving very well and everything was going according to plan.  It’s a shame that we had a mechanical problem.”

RAHAL LETTERMAN LANIGAN RACING AT ST. PETE… 2012 will mark the 21st consecutive season of competition for the team.  It will be the fifth IndyCar race for the team in St. Pete and the ninth car entered. The team prepared Indy cars for Danica Patrick (2005, 2006), Buddy Rice (2005, 2006), Vitor Meira (2005), Jeff Simmons (2007), Scott Sharp (2007) and Ryan Hunter-Reay (2008) prior to this year. The team led the race for four laps with Hunter-Reay in 2008 (G. Rahal won) and has earned three top-10 finishes with the best being fifth by Meira in 2005.  The highest starting position by the team is sixth place by Hunter-Reay in 2008.

NEXT UP:  The Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama, Round 2 of 16 in the IZOD IndyCar Series, will take place on April 1 and will be televised by NBC Sports at 2 p.m. ET.