Qualifying Report:  Honda Indy Toronto 2 in T.O.

TORONTO July 12, 2013—Takuma Sato qualified 12th Friday afternoon for the first race of the  doubleheader event this weekend at Toronto’s Exhibition Place 1.7-mile street circuit. It was the second best qualifying effort for both Sato and the ABC Supply team, with their best runs coming last year (Sato - 9th and the ABC Supply team – 11th).

Sato will actually start 11th because fifth fastest qualifier James Jakes incurred a 10-spot grid penalty for an unapproved engine change. Dario Franchitti won the pole with a speed of 105.8 mph. Rounding out the top six were Sebastian Bourdais for his best ever start in the IZOD IndyCar Series, Will Power, Tony Kanaan, Jakes and Scott Dixon.

Sato was 20th in the morning practice session where the team was beset with several different issues which cost them about a third of the 90-minute session’s track time. However, Sato was able to get enough of a read on the ABC Supply Honda to suggest to his engineers the direction to go in qualifying.

Chief Engineer Don Halliday changed the setup substantially for qualifying and gave Sato a car that was much improved.

In Round 1 of the knockout qualifying, Sato was third quickest in his 12-car group and he advanced to the second round. Nearing the end of Round 2, Sato was pressing hard to make it into the Firestone Fast Six, but the car bottomed out under braking entering Turn 1 and launched Sato into the tire barrier. The impact damaged the left front suspension and front wing, ending their session. It also brought out the red flag which cost Sato his two quickest laps as a penalty. His official qualifying speed of 101.2 mph is about three miles per hour short of his top speed in the session.

“We had difficulty in the morning session with several different issues,” Sato explained afterwards. “Our car didn’t like the track initially so we made a lot of changes in the practice session, and with the other issues we had, we just ran out of time. Then we made more changes for qualifying and expected to have a lot more grip from the alternate red tire which we did. We made good progress in segment 1 and the car was much more comfortable and I was able to push hard. But in the second segment going into turn 1, we were always on the edge just kissing the bumps; the last time, the car bottomed out and it went straight into the tires. It’s unfortunate, but we have another qualifying session tomorrow so hopefully we can improve again.”

The teams will qualify Saturday morning for Sunday’s Race 2 of the doubleheader. That session will consist of two groups of 12 determined by practice session speeds. Sato will be in Group 2 which consists of the even-numbered positions. Each group will have 12 minutes to post their quickest time which will determine the starting grid.

Following the morning qualifying session, the teams will prepare the cars for Race 1 which will feature the first ever standing start in the IZOD IndyCar Series. The cars will make a lap around the circuit before coming to a stop on the grid (without killing the engines). A series of lights will signal the drivers when they can start the race. For Sunday’s race, a traditional rolling start will be used. Saturday’s 85-lap race will be broadcast live by NBC Sports Network with the telecast starting at 3 p.m. ET.