Race Report: Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. March 24, 2013—Takuma Sato’s debut in A.J. Foyt’s ABC Supply Honda at the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg started off strong, had some rough spots midway through the race but the plucky driver fought his way back to eighth—tying the team’s best performance at the 1.8 mile circuit.

"It was a tough race right at the beginning, we clipped a front wing on the second restart so we had a damaged car most of the race,” Sato said. “Before we changed the front wing we were as far down as 15th.  We picked up some pace and were able to overtake a few cars on the track so that was encouraging. There are quite a few things we need to look at but we fought hard today and I want to thank the ABC Supply team for their hard work!"

Sato, who qualified second, ran there until the first pit stop when he switched his used alternate tires for new primary tires. He slipped to third position more because of where he was pitted than a miscue on the crew’s part which sent him out in 7.3 seconds.

On the lap 32 restart, eventual race winner James Hinchcliffe and he battled for third with Sato’s right front wing getting clipped in the process. He lost a couple positions over the next couple laps and was running sixth when the yellow flag came out for debris on lap 45.

Takuma Sato Qualifies Second for Best Start Ever in Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg

ST. PETERSBURG, FL March 23, 2013—The most unlikely pairing in the IZOD IndyCar Series paddock served notice today.

Takuma Sato qualified A.J. Foyt’s No. 14 ABC Supply Honda on the front row of the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg; Sato will start alongside four-time St. Pete pole winner Will Power in his Chevrolet-powered Team Penske car. The run is Sato’s and the team’s best at the 1.8-mile, 14-turn street course.

They were the only two drivers in the Firestone Fast Six to break the 105-mph barrier with Power setting a new track record with his 1:01.2 timed lap. Sato’s best lap was three tenths of a second shy of the record and nearly two tenths quicker than Simona de Silvestro’s Chevrolet who qualified third for her career best start. Rounding out the top six were James Hinchcliffe (Chevrolet), Helio Castroneves (Chevrolet) and rookie Tristan Vautier (Honda) who won the Firestone Indy Lights title last year.

“It’s really good—it’s made the whole team really motivated,” said Sato. “The team obviously worked really hard over the course of the winter test program. We came here with reasonable balance and for qualifying we trimmed it really well. First segment, second segment, and third segment –we were all p-2. That was really a perfect result for the team and I was really pleased to get it done.”

Sato Continues To Show Speed in ABC Supply Honda as IZOD IndyCar Series Kicks Off in St. Petersburg

ST. PETERSBURG, FL March 22—Takuma Sato continued to show the speed the ABC Supply Honda had in winter testing as the IZOD IndyCar Series opened their season in the streets of St. Petersburg today.

Sato was fifth quickest of 25 drivers who practiced on the 1.8 mile street circuit and he was the fastest of the Honda-powered cars. He logged 29 laps between the morning and afternoon sessions, and set his quickest lap of 104.9mph just four laps into the afternoon session.

"It was a very productive day for us,” Sato said afterwards. “The first session the ABC Supply car was a little bit outside of the balance that we wanted but we made a good improvement over the lunch break and the car felt much better in the afternoon. We tested a couple things and got some good information so hopefully tomorrow we can make another step forward."

Will Power set the pace in his Chevrolet-powered car with a speed of 105.4mph. He was followed by defending champion Ryan Hunter-Reay, Simona deSilvestro and Oriol Servia.

The teams have one more practice session in the morning before qualifying for the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg takes place Saturday afternoon.

In Sato’s first test with AJ Foyt Racing at Sebring (Fla.) International Raceway in February, he was quickest of the 13 drivers who participated in the private test. In the Series’ Open Test at Barber Motorsports Park earlier this month, Sato was fifth quickest of the 25 drivers who tested there.

The Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg will be televised live Sunday on NBC Sports Network with coverage starting at 12 noon ET.

Notes & Quotes: Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg

ABC Supply enters its ninth season as sponsor of A.J. Foyt’s team. In the course of the past eight years, the company has entertained well over 40,000 associates and customers at IZOD IndyCar Series events. This weekend, the company will have 500 guests at the race on Sunday.

Takuma Sato on St. Petersburg hosting the opening round of the IZOD IndyCar Series: “It is great to have the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg as the opening round of the season. It makes perfect sense as it has bright sun, warm weather (usually!!) and a great atmosphere. The track is pretty unique as a street course because it has a nice mixture of technical low speed parts and a high speed section too, plus a very wide runway. The fans are enthusiastic and everyone is excited about the first race of the season. The track facility is great too so it is a very special event.”

Sato on how he prepares for first race of year: “You just hope you can hang in there! Just kidding. It is quite physical as the first race comes a long time after the last one, but I have gone through a good winter training program and a couple of pre-season tests, so that all helps my preparation.”

Sato on the key to running well in St. Pete: “You must be quite careful going through Turn 1 at the start and on the re-starts.  We are approaching the turn from the very wide runway as it joins the narrow street course so the cars pack up, and there is a high chance of contact. Also the wide white lines painted on the runway makes it very tricky on braking and handling as it is quite slippery compared to the asphalt, so you need to be well under control and be extra cautious around others. There are some overtaking opportunities on the track so you just have to keep calm and then there is a good chance of running well.”