Race Report: Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix – Race 2
June 1, 2014—IndyCar race or bumper car race?
For Takuma Sato, Race 2 of the Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix was more of the latter. Twice he was punted from behind as he was making his way through the field. The pole winner took off at the start and was cruising when the race was slowed by two full course yellows – the first coming on lap one and the second on lap 10.
With the second yellow, the team decided to pit Sato to get him off of the softer compound alternate tires which were showing wear early. He lost a several spots due to stopping long in the pit box but the team still got him out in 10.3 seconds.
Due to the full course cautions, several fuel strategies were in play. He worked his way back to third before having to pit on lap 30. The ABC crew serviced him in 7.1 seconds, but he dropped from third to 13th as the different fuel strategies surfaced. On lap 35, he was overtaking Jack Hawksworth (who had just exited the pits) when Ryan Briscoe tried to make it three wide by going up the middle in Turn 3 and punting Sato into a spin. Sato never stalled but he lost six spots and a lot of track position.
Although furious that Briscoe wasn’t penalized for avoidable contact, Sato maintained his composure and soldiered on. He pitted 11 laps later and the ABC crew turned in a 6.79-second stop which allowed Sato to gain a spot on the track and move into 15th as cars began pitting. By lap 49, he was in 12th and again chasing Bourdais. He moved into 11th on lap 59 when Bourdais hit the wall which brought out another full co
Sato set his sights on 10th place Tony Kanaan when the green flag waved but then Marco Andretti punted Sato into the wall in Turn 5 a lap later. Sato was restarted by the safety team and nursed the car for the final six laps to finish a disappointing 18th. Officials issued Andretti a stop and go penalty which dropped him from 11th to 16th.
Castroneves went on to win the race while his teammate Will Power bounced back from an early penalty for avoidable contact to finish second. Third through fifth were Charlie Kimball, Scott Dixon and James Hinchcliffe.
"First I'd like to thank the whole team, everyone did a tremendous job,” said Sato afterwards. “It wasn't an easy weekend to start. We had the misfortune yesterday of a mechanical failure which stopped us from racing but we learned a lot and came back very strong. This morning's qualifying I enjoyed so much. I was able to commit 100% and the car reacted so well. In the race, the start was smooth and all was looking good. On the first stop we lost a couple places. The fuel strategy was split because of the early yellow but I still moved up to effectively the 2nd position [based on the different fuel strategies] and Briscoe hit me under braking in Turn 3. That was our race. We moved up to almost the top 10 and Marco hit me and that time I hit the wall. We finished the race, but it was a bitter feeling. My guys did a great job today.”
Indeed, one reason that the crew was able to execute such fast stops is that no changes were needed on the stops because the ABC Supply Honda was to Sato’s liking.
The team heads to Texas for the Firestone 600 Saturday night which will be televised by NBC Sports Network starting at 8pm ET.