Race Report: Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach

LONG BEACH, Calif. April 19—Lessons learned. After the carnage and the multiple yellow flags that flew in the first two races in the Verizon IndyCar Series, the drivers showed today that they can race fast and furious--and keep the bumping and debris to a minimum. Just one caution period (laps 5-8) slowed the 80-lap race around the 1.9-mile downtown Long Beach street course.

That was the good news. The bad news was that the ABC Supply Hondas could have used a couple more caution periods to make their alternate fuel strategy work since they were starting deep in the field for the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach.

With Jack Hawksworth starting 16th in the No. 41 ABC Supply Honda and Takuma Sato two rows behind in the No. 14 ABC Supply Honda, the team used an alternate pit strategy but needed a race with a few cautions periods to make it work. Both drivers pitted during the first caution to shed the primary compound tires and put on the faster alternate compound (aka red-rimmed) Firestones.

When the pace setters ducked into the pits on lap 29, Hawksworth took the lead and Sato was in pursuit until they pitted on laps 33 and 32 respectively. When the pit stops cycled out, they were in 14th and 15th position—which were their positions before they pitted. Pitting again on laps 52 (Sato) and 54, they ran nose to tail for nearly the rest of the race.

Hawksworth, who finished 14th said, “It was a tricky race, and we thought there were going to be more yellows than there were. The strategy was good but we just didn’t quite have the speed today so we’ll come back at Barber next week and have another go at it.”

Unfortunately for Sato, there was a miscalculation on fuel and his car sputtered on the final corner of the race. He coasted to the checkered, losing three spots, and finished 18th.

“Our tough weekend continues,” Sato said with a smile, noting, “but we finally had a good feeling of the car in the morning warmup today. The car’s potential was there before qualifying but we weren’t able to show the performance then due to the red flag which cut short qualifications. We were in the top 10 in this morning’s practice and had a positive feeling about the speed. I was optimistic for the race even though we had to start at the back. We had a good plan but there weren’t many yellows today, so not many chances to gain a lot of positions. At the end, we had a calculation problem on the fuel. I had to give up some positions as well as try to bring the car home. On the very last corner when I accelerated, it started coughing so I coasted to the checkered in neutral. The boys worked hard on the car all weekend and it’s just a shame we couldn’t produce a good result today.”

Qualifying Report: Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach

LONG BEACH, Calif. April 18, 2015--An untimely red flag proved pivotal in the Round 1 Group 2 qualifying session for the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach this afternoon.

Jack Hawksworth and Takuma Sato were starting on the first of their two hot laps which would have been a true indication of where they stacked up after a productive morning practice session. However, neither driver was able to complete a hot lap as the crash by rookie Stefano Coletti brought out the red flag and sent everyone to the pits, thus allowing the track crew to remove the car and debris from the track. The session was cut short before many drivers had posted their best time on the alternate (red-rimmed), softer compound tires.

Hawksworth, who will start 16th in the No. 41 ABC Supply Honda, said, “We didn’t get the chance to put a time in because we were unlucky with the red flag situation. The car felt pretty decent this morning and I think we made the right changes for qualifying. I don’t think we would have been top three or four but I do think we could have been in the third or fourth row. Disappointing not to get a go, and see where we were at. But we came from the back at St. Pete, so hopefully we can come through tomorrow.”

Sato, who had been struggling to find the sweet spot in the No. 14 ABC Supply Honda yesterday, felt they had made gains in the morning practice session.

“Another disappointing day,” said Sato, who will start 20th, right behind defending Series champion Will Power, who was also caught out by the red flag. “We tried various different setups in practice three to find good grip and balance and I think we made good improvement,” Sato continued. “I was quite looking forward to qualifying. Unfortunately, the red flag came out and qualifying finished before I was able to try for a fast lap. That was a shame.”

Helio Castroneves won the pole with a new track record time of 1 minute, 6.62 seconds (106.331mph) around the 1.968-mile street circuit. He was followed by Juan Pablo Montoya, Scott Dixon, Ryan Hunter-Reay, and Simon Pagenaud.

There will be a 30-minute morning warmup when teams can fine-tune their race setup. The race will be broadcast on NBC Sports Network starting at 4 p.m. ET.

 

Notes & Quotes: Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach

Takuma Sato: No. 14 ABC Supply Honda
Jack Hawksworth: No. 41 ABC Supply Honda

AJ Foyt Racing is the only team to have competed in every race (274) since the Indy Racing League began in 1996. This race will be the team’s 275th start, Sato’s 89th, and Hawksworth’s 20th in the Verizon IndyCar Series. Driving for Foyt, Sato won the event in 2013 to become the first Japanese driver to win an IndyCar race.

TAKUMA SATO ON:

Long Beach circuit: “The Long Beach track has a great balance of layout. It has both high-speed and low-speed corners and heavy braking followed by good straights which means there are a few over-taking opportunities for drivers. The track is a little on the lower side of grip-level but it can evolve a lot over the weekend as it rubbers down in the usually consistently good weather. The venue has a fantastic atmosphere and great restaurants downtown or nearby. It’s just one of the best street courses I’ve known from many aspects.”

What makes winning at Long Beach so special: “Long Beach has got a long racing history with the greatest series [F-1 and IndyCar]. People love this race and winning it makes it even more valuable and special.”

How the new aero kit will affect how he drives there: “It will affect the set-up as we have more down-force now. It should be a similar trend to the opening race which was another street course [St. Petersburg]. We were competitive there so we will see. In terms of driving approach, it shouldn’t be much different and we will love it with more grip available. You can brake late and carry more speed than ever. It will be exciting.”

Key factor to success at Long Beach: “The car needs a very good mechanical grip for sure and downforce level should be varied. Some cars will have heavy and some will have light because the track has a long straight and you need to be fast there, as well as good on the corners, so finding a good balance for the downforce level is a key factor.”

Why experience seems more valuable here (many multiple race winners like Al Unser Jr., Paul Tracy, Sebastien Bourdais, Will Power, etc.): “Perhaps the track condition is quite stable for many years because the weather is consistent and the track requires precision from many angles. If it were the opposite way around, then the winner might be changing all the time… So let’s hope that history repeat itself!”

JACK HAWKSWORTH ON:

Long Beach Grand Prix: “Long Beach is one of the most historic street circuits in the world and the list of great champions who have won there is endless. It's a bit like the Indianapolis of street course racing and its history and prestige definitely sets it apart. In terms of track layout, it is very technical and challenging.”

What he will look for in his Track Walk on Thursday: “Usually we'll look for changes in the track surface and corners’ radiuses in comparison to previous years. Street circuits in particular are an ever evolving animal and it’s quite common to find little changes from year to year. It's also a great time to talk about the specific driving and handling challenges each corner presents and what kind of things the car might need to deal with the challenges.”

What he likes about racing at Long Beach: “The weather and the atmosphere. It's a fantastic track in the best location! The circuit has a fantastic feel to it and there is always a great crowd and buzz around the paddock.”

Last year’s race there: “We had a quick car in qualifying but we struggled a little for pace in the race. With that said, we ran top six for most of the race before the leaders crashed in front and I got collected in the accident. We sustained some damage but managed to get to the end albeit a few laps down.”

What he learned from the New Orleans race: “It's true that NOLA wasn't a good weekend on any front result-wise for us, but sometimes these kinds of race weekends are actually the most productive in the long run--they force you to dig deep and figure out how to come back stronger. I think we already have a pretty good handle on a few of the issues which hindered us and this will certainly help us all moving forward. Last time out on a street circuit (St Pete) the team showed some great pace in practice, qualifying and the race. With this in mind, alongside the great people we have in the team and the lessons from NOLA in the bank, I see no reason why the ABC Supply cars won't be up there fighting for a good result!”