Race Report: Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama
BIRMINGHAM April 27, 2014—Once the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama got underway after a nearly three-hour rain delay, Takuma Sato must have felt like Sisyphus, who rolled the stone up the mountain only to have it fall just before he reached the top –and had to start rolling it all over again.
Recovering from two spins before the halfway mark, Sato soldiered on to finish 13th in the No. 14 ABC Supply Honda at the picturesque Barber Motorsports Park.
Although it had stopped raining, the cars started on rain tires because the track was so wet from the early afternoon storms. Sato qualified 14th but before lap one was completed, he was last, having been caught up in an accordion-effect tangle which sent him spinning and then parked in Turn 11. Safety crews got him restarted and on his way before he lost a lap.
When the caution came out for the contact between teammates Mikhail Aleshin and Sebastien Bourdais on lap 21, the field pitted and switched from the treaded rain tires to the dry slick tires. Sato had worked his way from 23rd to 17th—benefitting too from a 7.2 second pit stop by the ABC Supply team.
On the lap 26 restart, Sato was attempting to pass Ryan Briscoe and as they entered the hairpin side-by-side, they tangled which sent Sato spinning again. He dropped to 20th–the last car on the lead lap. However, a full course yellow followed for Juan Pablo Montoya’s off track excursion in Turn 11, allowing Sato to catch up to the field.
He then began moving up through the field and was 13th by lap 39. With a flawless 6.8-second pit stop on lap 48, Sato was 13th when the pit stops cycled out. He was closing on 12th place Jack Hawksworth, having cut a 1.5-second gap down to within striking distance when the fifth and final caution came out on lap 66 for Aleshin’s contact in Turn 14.