Sonoma Grand Prix (2013)

Race Report: Go Pro Grand Prix of Sonoma

SONOMA, Calif. August 25, 2013—Some days it doesn’t pay to get out of bed in the morning. After Sunday’s Go Pro Grand Prix of Sonoma, Takuma Sato may have felt that way. And he probably wasn’t the only one after the crash-filled race which was slowed by seven cautions.

Sato, who started 13th in the No. 14 ABC Supply Honda, got off to a good start in the 85-lap race, picking up two spots on the opening lap. By the time of his first pit stop on lap 18, he was up to ninth. The ABC Supply crew took off the alternate (and softer) compound red-rimmed tires and put on the primary (harder compound black) tires.

The team decided to use the black tires, which have less grip, early so Sato could have the faster red tires for the end of the race. Per the rules, teams must run at least one set of each during the race. On the restart, it was challenging as most of the cars around him had the softer compound tires. However, Sato was holding his own until Graham Rahal spun a couple rows ahead of him.

“We were going into the corner side by side with T.K. [referring to Tony Kanaan but it was actually James Jakes] when Rahal spun and I had nowhere to go and collected him,” said Sato. The contact damaged Sato’s right front suspension requiring it to be replaced as well as the steering arm. The repair took nearly 20 minutes.

“We fixed the car and went back out so we could learn for the future,” Sato explained.

Qualifying Report: Go Pro Grand Prix of Sonoma

SONOMA, Calif. August 24, 2013—Takuma Sato qualified the No. 14 ABC Supply Honda in 13th position for the Go Pro Grand Prix of Sonoma today under sunny skies at Sonoma Raceway. At this track, it was a personal best for Sato who is making his fourth start in the race;  it was the second best qualifying run for the ABC Supply team (with last year's 12th spot being their best start here).

“We made some progress but not enough to advance to the next segment,” said Sato, who will start inside the sixth row. “It’s been a struggle but we’ve found some positives so hopefully we will improve again and have a better package tomorrow.”

Part of the challenge was due to a different tire that was supplied for this track which didn’t have quite the same grip level as last year’s tires. With Sonoma Raceway having one of the lowest grip level surfaces in the series, many teams were struggling to find the proper setup to maximize traction.

Sato posted a lap of 1 minute, 18.91 seconds for a speed of 108.799mph on the 12-turn, 2.3-mile permanent road course.

Dario Franchitti won the pole while his teammate Scott Dixon will start alongside him. Will Power, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Helio Castroneves and Charlie Kimball rounded out the Firestone Fast Six. Following a 30-minute warmup in the morning, the Go Pro Grand Prix of Sonoma will be broadcast live on the NBC Sports Network starting at 4 p.m. ET.

Practice Report: Sonoma Raceway

SONOMA, Calif. Aug. 23, 2013—Takuma Sato and the ABC Supply team appear to be headed in the right direction as they prep the No. 14 ABC Supply Honda for qualifying for the Go Pro Indy Grand Prix of Sonoma.

Sato posted a time of 1:19.39 for a speed of 108.128mph which was 14th quickest in the second session today at Sonoma Raceway. It was an improvement over the morning run in which Sato was 21st out of 25 drivers.

“After two days of testing, we still had to work really hard but today was a positive day for us,” said Sato, who will be making his fourth start at the 2.385-mile road course in the heart of wine country. “We found a good direction—we still need more speed but we’re feeling better after practice this afternoon and I’m looking forward to tomorrow.”

Scott Dixon was the quickest on track today with a speed of 109.635mph. Only three other drivers broke into the 109mph speed bracket. There is another practice in the morning before qualifying begins at 2:30 p.m.

The Go Pro Indy Grand Prix of Sonoma will be broadcast live Sunday afternoon starting at 1p.m. on the NBC Sports Network.

NOTES & QUOTES: Go Pro Indy Grand Prix of Sonoma

Takuma Sato and the ABC Supply/AJ Foyt Racing team are in their first season together. Sato is making his fourth start at Sonoma Raceway. He is 13th in the IZOD IndyCar Series standings.

Takuma Sato On:

o Sonoma Raceway: “It's the most dynamic and challenging road course in the series. In some ways, it’s tricky but I always enjoy the huge elevation changes throughout a lap and the great high speed corners. Most of the high speed corners are related to some elevation change so it makes car always unstable and inconstant. For example, we have to wait until Turn 7 for the track to get flat--otherwise it’s always up and down and the attitude [of the car] changes at the apex in the middle of the corner, so that is challenging. Also the track is generally low grip as it is a bit sandy, but some places are even more slippery with different surfaces and very difficult to secure a good grip.”

o The key setup for the race: “It's a very tricky place here for the engineer as well. The surface has low grip and there are three extremely slow-speed corners so you need a very good mechanical grip but you need a lot of platform control as well for aero because many of the rest are high-speed corners. It’s very difficult to get the balance right as the track makes the car unstable all the time.”

o What was learned from testing at Sonoma: “It was a very productive day. We went through many test items and found both positives and negatives. There are several ways that you can achieve similar effect by different setups but some work and some don’t and that is very specific by track-- meaning some work for other places but not here, etc. We learned a lot from that point of view and we’re looking forward to the Open Test to continue the work.”

o What he did in the area before the Open Test: “My family came and we stayed in Sonoma a little bit but then went to Las Vegas and also visited Yosemite Park. Vegas is always fun to find some different things and we enjoyed a couple of the shows. It was our first visit to Yosemite and that was fantastic--a great way to relax and get refreshed in the beauty of nature.”

A.J. Foyt on his recovery: “Not coming along as fast as I’d hoped to – everything is looking good and I’m feeling good but the doctors don’t want me to travel that far by air. I get real tired – it’s a lot rougher than I thought it was going to be. I can’t wait to get back but it’ll be Houston before I am at a race.”