Takuma Sato and No. 14 ABC Supply Team Take IndyCar Point Lead with Sato’s Brilliant Drive in Brazil
SAO PAULO, Brazil May 5, 2013—Sometimes a driver’s ‘best-driven’ race doesn’t land him in Victory Lane. That was the case today with Takuma Sato who drove a brilliant—and valiant--race to finish second with the ABC Supply Honda in the Itaipava Sao Paulo Indy 300. James Hinchcliffe passed Sato coming off the last corner to claim his second win of the season.
Sato took over the IZOD IndyCar points lead as A.J. Foyt’s ABC Supply team heads to Indianapolis as the points leader. The last time Foyt’s team led the IndyCar standings was in 1998 when Kenny Brack won the series title.
Starting 12th, Sato made great moves on the starts and restarts to live up to his philosophy of “No Attack. No Chance.” He picked up positions every time without losing any bodywork – a feat in itself on the streets of Sao Paulo—so that by lap 34 he was leading the race. He pitted four laps later during a caution, but that call was a gamble on the part of Team Foyt who could have stayed out a few more laps as many others did.
That call set up another gamble during a lap 52 caution as the team made abandoned their Conserve Fuel strategy, gave up P-6 on the track, ducked in for fuel only—and no tires. When the stops cycled out, however, Sato was in P-4! He moved into the lead on lap 57 for the second time and held off repeated attacks from Josef Newgarden and later Hinchcliffe, both on fresher tires.
In the final 15 laps of the 75-lap race however, the no. 14 car began getting looser with every lap as Sato’s quick hands fought to maintain control and the lead. He managed to do just that until the final turn of the final lap of the race. Hinchcliffe zipped past and took the checkered, while Sato took second and the points lead.
It was the second straight podium finish for Sato who finished third here last year. It was also the second podium finish in Sao Paulo for the ABC Supply team – their first podium – third place with Vitor Meira – come in the 2010 inaugural event.
Marco Andretti finished third and moves into second in the standings. Oriol Servia was fourth and Newgarden wound up fifth. Pre-race favorite Will Power dropped out with mechanical issues before halfway.
“We chose the strategy to come into the pit when we were leading [lap 35] but we had 40 laps left,” Sato said after climbing out of the car. “The guys did a tremendous job calling the race. It was difficult because the tires go off quite a lot compared to Hinch and Newgarden. I also had a slight issue with the brakes and I was really hanging on, but obviously Hinch did a great maneuver—congrats on his second win of this season. We didn’t think we had a car today capable of winning but what a strong comeback for the AJ Foyt Racing team. Really happy. The guys did a tremendous job.”
“It’s been a great turnaround for our team for sure,” ABC Supply Team Director Larry Foyt said. “We struggled for speed actually this weekend in Brazil, we struggled to find a set up. Takuma just drove another good race and the guys had good pit stops. It was funny the way the yellows were falling. It was kind of a gamble on what we did and we got lucky it worked out. We had a chance to win it and Takuma had a chance to win it, but we ran out of tires at the end. The guys, our engineers and Takuma just never gave up. I am really proud of them.”
A.J. Foyt, who didn’t make the trip to Brazil, was even more enthused in his comments, saying, “From what I could tell, he drove a helluva race considering the tires were probably worn out. The crew did a good job on calling the race because if they had to change tires, they wouldn’t have been up there, so it was a gamble and it paid off.”
As for being the points leader going into the Indianapolis 500?
“This team is really doing a fantastic job,” Larry Foyt said. “Takuma is driving just amazingly. It’s been good, so going into the month of May, obviously this is a long month and anything can happen, but it’s always a positive to have good momentum going into Indy.”
Of course, the last word belongs to A.J. who said, “You always like to be leading the points regardless of where you’re going -- it just keeps the crew’s momentum going -- but we’ve just got to come out of there with a bigger lead in points!”
Practice for the Indy 500 begins Saturday, May 11th with Pole Day set for May 18th. The 97th Running of the Indianapolis 500 will be broadcast live Sunday, May 26th on ABC-TV starting at 12 p.m. ET.