NOTES & QUOTES: Shell and Pennzoil Grand Prix of Houston
• Takuma Sato On:
o His confidence from winning pole here in 2013: “It is always good to know you’re going to the place where you performed well in the past. We also have achieved two pole positions this season on the street courses [St. Petersburg and Detroit)] so that gives me extra confidence too.”
o The key to getting around NRG Park: “Pretty much it’s the usual menu for the street tracks which are good mechanical grip, strong stability and a good front end. But here especially you need to build a driver-friendly car for consistently good drivability all the time because the track has slippery concrete patches and very bumpy surfaces but some seriously high speed corners as well.”
o Heat and humidity as factors this year—his prep to optimize his fitness: “Not only for this race but you need to build up your fitness level high through the season. Based on that, I spent some time in Japan after nearly a month of consecutive racing activity. I had a good maintenance over there plus it’s the rainy season in Japan now so it was a perfect prep for Houston: warm temperatures with high humidity.”
o A past race where he had to deal with high heat and humidity: “There were several races with extreme conditions that I have experienced in my career. In Formula 1, it was a super-hot but dry condition at Bahrain where it felt like standing in front of a hairdryer all the time, or the ultra-high heat with humidity at Sepang in Malaysia. I used to go a beautiful Langkawi island before the Malaysian GP for a week – just for the temperature acclimation training. There you start sweating just standing still but then I’d climb a mountain through the forest… that was hard but it was great training.”
o His success on the street courses— driving style or car setup? “It’s a combination. If the car works well then you can drive really hard so the speed and lap times come all together. I always enjoyed street course racing like the Macau GP in F3 or Monaco GP in F1 but other than that, I didn’t have much experience on street courses before I came over to the U.S. Now, I really have a great variety of street experience and really like them so I enjoy driving this kind of track, and the No.14 car works to my liking.”
o What he’d consider a successful weekend: “Houston will be a big race for us as it’s our team’s home town. Winning is obviously mega but staying clean and finishing high for both races would be great especially because it’s a tough weekend being a double header.”
o Mid-season assessment: “We certainly have been competitive at most of the tracks but there were some that we couldn’t figure out quickly enough in the early part of the race weekend which made it tough to catch up. We had a successful test at Milwaukee before the two week break, and there we found a great hint for the general oval track setting. I’m looking to keep working hard with our ABC Supply team for the rest of season and I believe we can grab strong results soon.”
• Over $30,000 Helmet! Takuma Sato’s helmet, worn by him in this year’s Indianapolis 500 and especially designed as a tribute to the Indy 500 and team owner A.J. Foyt, was recently auctioned off this month. The winning bid of $15,675 came from a Japanese collector who chooses to remain anonymous. A U.S. bidder (also remaining anonymous) matched the bid to bring the total to $31,350! The proceeds from the auction will benefit the With you Japan charity founded in 2011 by Sato to benefit the young victims of the earthquake and ensuing tsunami that struck Japan on March 11 of that year. For more information, check out With you Japan.
• Houston History: A.J. Foyt began racing stock cars in 1951 (and later midgets) at Playland Park, a quarter-mile dirt track adjacent to the amusement park that was located on Main St between Westridge and Murworth. Today, the area has apartment buildings and a parking lot for NRG Park. Foyt last drove race cars in Houston at the Astrodome on an indoor 1/5-mi. dirt oval. In four USAC midget races, he finished second and flipped (inaugural doubleheader in 1969), won in 1970 and finished fifth in 1972. Houstonian Jim Greer, who continues to support A.J.’s team, went partners with Foyt’s dad Tony to buy A.J. his first midget circa 1951-1952.