Race Report: Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach
LONG BEACH, Calif. April 13, 2014—The Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach had all the makings of a Cinderella story for Takuma Sato and the ABC Supply team.
A disappointing qualifying run, a collision on the opening lap which dropped Sato from 15th to 20th, and an early pit stop to replace the damaged nose assembly all combined to make his chances of success look slim. By lap seven of the 80-lap event, he was running last and a lap down to the top three leaders.
Sato and the ABC Supply team battled back. Good strategy and even better pit stops (their final one was a cool 7.45 seconds) and they were on their way to a top-10 finish in the ABC Supply Honda. But a lap and four turns later is when the glass slipper turned out not to fit.
After a round of green flag pit stops, pole sitter Ryan Hunter-Reay, who had led 51 laps before the pit stop cycle began, came up on Josef Newgarden in Turn 3. Newgarden, who had moved into third on lap 32, ran there behind Hunter-Reay and James Hinchcliffe until pitting on lap 55. Exiting the pits on cold tires ahead of Hunter-Reay, Newgarden and Hunter-Reay made contact entering Turn 4 and Hinchcliffe piled in with no place to go. Although a couple cars sliced their way through, Sato was close on the heels of Carlos Munoz who barely missed the carnage. Sato nearly squeezed through but clipped Newgarden’s car and the impact tore off the left front suspension of the No. 14.
“Unfortunately, when I turned into Turn 4 there were three cars tangled together and it was in the middle of the racing line and the middle of the track. I couldn't avoid it. I clipped the 67 car and that was the end of our race. A very disappointing finish and we could have finished very high, but I hope we can transport the positives to the next round,” Sato said.