Last year, Takuma Sato came very close to winning the Indianapolis 500. In the final laps of the race, he made a move on Dario Franchitti for the lead, however would end up spinning and hitting the wall.
“The ‘500’ last year is just unforgettable day for me, and I just seconds by seconds what happening the last six laps — not just the last six, but the whole entire weekend and month,” Sato commented. “You could say that it was special and spectacular show. I think at the end of the day, obviously, I was disappointed with the result, but still it was just tremendous support from the team and had a great experience to experience really to leading the ‘500’ the first time.”
12 months later, Sato is a race winner having won earlier this year at Long Beach and comes into the weekend leading the points. He also built on that success at Brazil, finishing second after a thrilling battle to the checkered for the win with James Hinchcliffe.
“Every single event is counting for the confidence,” he said. “Brazil was one of the most exciting races we ever had. In the end, I was obviously disappointed being second, but still I think it’s a great satisfaction for the series doing a fantastic job, and to be able to be leading a championship after Brazil is an extra bonus for me.”
Sato at the top of the board remarks an incredible return for A.J. Foyt Racing to the top of the charts. Sato made the move from Bobby Rahal Racing to A.J. Foyt’s team during the off-season, which has added a new challenge for the Japanese driver. Though he says, it’s also an honor.
“A.J. is someone special and having an opportunity from him to race for him and his team, it’s really honor to me,” he said. “And I really feel proud to be part of the racing team there because the guys, it’s a small team, relatively small team — well, say not big team. But I think it is a bunch of quality people, a bunch of the people who already having a tremendous time from A.J. Foyt time and are still there. That’s something that’s very unique, I think.”
Sato said from the first test at Sebring during the winter with Foyt, he felt they could be strong.
“The car was a bit different from what I was used to from last year but it was very, very consistent,” he said of that test. “I thought, ‘Hmm, this consistency, if you can maintain it, just sharpen up the speed, we could have been really, really strong.’ And that’s what we did.”
In his career to date, Sato has already had the honor to race for some of the biggest names in the sport, starting with Jimmy Vasser. It was Vasser that gave Sato his opportunity to come over from Europe and race.
“He’s probably the, knowing the latest of all, in terms of the age and the closest for us, that he experienced as at very least in formulas and IndyCar,” he said. “So he knows how to do it in current format of the IndyCar racing. So it was really great advice. Everything, of course, we go on ovals and how you do it. It was a good time.”
Sato added that Vasser was good in giving him tips in how to run the ovals, as Sato wasn’t used to that.
Though the focus is now on winning the Indy 500 and returning A.J. Foyt to Indianapolis victory lane as Foyt’s last Indy win came a decade and a half ago with Kenny Brack.
“I think by any team and any person winning ‘500’ would be so special,” he said. “And I think but doing that with A.J., I can’t imagine how he’s going to be. It’s going to be really, really huge moment for the team and for himself and myself. So — but we’re here for it. We are here aiming to win the ‘500.’ So there is no reason why we cannot. We’ve been showing solid performance on the last two days in testing, and hopefully we continue the progress, and hopefully we’ll be competitive. But out there, it’s so competitive and the last four events it was successful for us, it doesn’t necessarily translate to the oval because just completely new environment.”