Sato Qualified 24th for the GoPro Indy GP of Sonoma; Will Be Assessed a 10-Grid Penalty for an Unapproved Engine Change and Will Start 26th

Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing
GoPro Indy Grand Prix of Sonoma – Sonoma Raceway
IZOD IndyCar Series
QUALIFYING NOTES/QUOTES — Saturday, August 25, 2012

POLE:  Will Power         1:17.2707 / 111.116 mph                       
24th:     Takuma Sato     1:19.2821 / 108.297 mph                                   
TAKUMA SATO, No. 15 Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Dallara/Honda/Firestone:  “It was another tough day. We really struggled in terms of finding the balance and speed, and finding the grip. We tried a lot of different things and changed philosophies on the set-up overnight and are working really hard to find a solution.  We made progress and certainly closed the gap to the top but the gains we made are small steps and are just not enough.  Now we have tried two practice and one qualifying sessions with quite different setups.  We need to go through all of the data and make the best out of it.  Hopefully we find a more comfortable balance and more speed in tomorrow’s warm-up and have a good race in the afternoon. (On 10-spot grid penalty:) Unfortunately it did not make a big difference on our starting our position.”

  • FAST FACTS: This will be Sato’s third race at Sonoma. He qualified 16th and finished 18th in 2011 and qualified 17th and finished 18th in 2010.  Both with KV Racing Technology… His best road/street course qualifying is pole at Edmonton in 2011 and his best finish is second in Edmonton this year… Sato led two street races this season (St. Pete & Long Beach) and at Indianapolis Motor Speedway where he nearly won with a last lap pass. Has led 58 laps to date in 2012… 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.

GERRY HUGHES, Race Engineer for Sato: “In qualifying this afternoon, while running the option tire Takuma managed to close the gap to the pole sitter and certainly close the gap to sixth place. We know we still have work to do to understand what to do with the car to improve the balance in ever changing conditions. Obviously tomorrow’s warm-up is going to be in much cooler conditions than the race. If the wind conditions are the same tomorrow as they were in qualifying today, we will see a reasonably different balance between morning and afternoon.  We have done a lot of work since Mid-Ohio to understand the differences between how we set the car up for a road course and street course and I think we are still finding our feet. Clearly we are not going to give up. We will keep analyzing the data to understand what we need to do to ensure we give Takuma the best car we can for tomorrow’s race.”
5TH INDYCAR RACE AT SONOMA FOR RAHAL LETTERMAN LANIGAN RACING: The GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma will mark the fifth Indy car event for Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing (RLL) here and first since 2008 when Ryan Hunter-Reay started 8th and finished 18th for the team. The highest start and finish for the team here is by Buddy Rice in 2005 when he started sixth and finished second.  Prior to the 2012 event, the team prepared a total of 9 Indy car entries for drivers Buddy Rice (2005-2006), Vitor Meira (2005), Danica Patrick (2005-2006), Jeff Simmons (2006), Scott Sharp (2007) and Ryan Hunter-Reay (2007-2008).  The team has earned one podium (2nd – Rice 2005), 1 top-five and four top-10 finishes at the track.  The No. 15 entry for Takuma Sato will bring the Indy car total to 10 entries in 2012.
NEXT UP:  The pre-race warm-up will take place from 9:00-9:30 a.m. PT and the 85-lap race will take the Green Flag at 1:42 p.m. PT (4:42 ET).  The GoPro Indy Grand Prix of Sonoma will be televised live on NBC Sports Network at 4:00 p.m. ET Sunday, August 26.