Last year, Takuma Sato made headlines when he became the first Japanese driver to win a Verizon IndyCar Series. After a season of success under his belt, Sato returns to the sight of that first win.
“It was a very special day for me, so going back there I feel good and confident,” he said. “We should be able to show a strong performance again.”
Sato added that the win last year helped his confidence and the team’s confidence, which propelled them to the success that they had the rest of the season.
So far this year, Sato is off to another solid as he won the Verizon P1 Award and finished seventh at St. Petersburg two weeks ago.
“Well, we had a slightly better race result at the season-opening race, but overall, I think it’s a very good start of the season,” Sato commented. “We had a fantastic performance throughout the weekend but especially in Qualifying; and we raced hard to get valuable good points. It is great to see the team’s winter preparation showing so positively. We will continue to work hard.”
Now Sato will look to turn that solid start to more success in California on a track that he says you need to a car that reacts well to heavy braking.
“The car needs to react well from heavy braking to sharp turn-in and quick exit,” he noted. “Also the track has one of the tightest and slowest hairpins in the series (final corner) and so it requires very strong traction coming out corner.”
This weekend also brings forth the first standing start of the season, which Sato is excited for.
“Most of my racing career, I had (raced with standing starts) until I arrived in the Verizon IndyCar Series, but I don’t mind the standing or rolling starts,” Sato added. “It’s nice to show the fans and be a little different. We had only done standing starts twice in the last season and on both occasions it was pretty good, so I expect the Long Beach start will be spectacular.
“On the technical side, the Honda engine configuration is different this year because it’s a twin turbo so we need to adapt for the new torque curve. We didn’t have much chance to practice at winter testing so we will see how we can catch up and improve our start performance in the practice sessions. Long Beach has done standing starts in its history so it should be fun.”
If Sato is able to win, he will become the first driver since Sebastian Bourdais to repeat at Long Beach, which Bourdais actually did the three-peat from 2005 to 2007.
“It will always be tough to win this race– everything has to be perfect — but why not? We will certainly try our best and aim to win,” he commented.
So far, he is off to a good start as he was fourth quickest in Friday’s practice.