Long Beach (2014)

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.

QUALIFYING REPORT – Long Beach Grand Prix

LONG BEACH, Calif. April 12, 2014—This year’s qualifying round for the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach was surprising as quite a few faces are in unfamiliar places. Takuma Sato will start 15th in the No. 14 ABC Supply Honda tomorrow.

Sato will be starting directly behind Tony Kanaan and Will Power, and alongside of Juan Pablo Montoya, all of whom failed to transfer out of the first round of qualifying.

“Tough qualifying session,” said Sato. “We made progress over the two days but just not enough. It’s quite a mixture of a grid so whether it was conditions or not, I don’t know. We tried our best but not going through the Q-1 qualifying round was disappointing. We shall work hard for final practice and hopefully we will have a strong package for the race.”

Sato’s two quickest laps were taken away when race officials decided he interfered with Ryan Hunter-Reay’s qualifying run in the first round. Sato explained, “We  both started on blacks [tires], but I pitted a lap earlier for the red tires. After warming up on my red tires, I was just starting my qualifying lap and he was on charge finishing his lap on blacks. Unfortunately we came close in the very last sector where the timing line is. I didn’t feel it would affect him on his lap time but they decided to penalize me.”

The penalty did not affect his starting position.

Hunter-Reay advanced through both rounds to win the Verizon P-1 Pole Award. Teammate James Hinchcliffe shares the front row. Sebastian Bourdais, Josef Newgarden, Jacks Hawksworth and Simon Pagenaud rounded out the Firestone Fast Six.

The ABC Supply team has a final warm-up session tomorrow morning. The 80-lap race will be televised live on NBC Sports Network starting at 4:00 p.m. ET.

Practice Report:   Long Beach Grand Prix

LONG BEACH, Calif. April 11, 2014—Defending race winner Takuma Sato and the ABC Supply team made good progress today as practice got underway for the 40th Anniversary Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach.

Sato had been 12th on the timesheet in the morning session but when the afternoon session concluded, he had moved up to fourth quickest in the No. 14 ABC Supply Honda. His afternoon lap time of 1 minute, 9.1488 seconds was eight tenths quicker than his morning run around the 11-turn, 1.968-mile street course.

“It’s good to be back in Long Beach and to have flashbacks of the good memories from last year,” said Sato. “We’re working on the car’s setup because technically it’s a little bit different from last year. We have to adapt to the 2014 Firestone tires, new configuration for the aero, and different characteristics for the engine, etc. Practice one and two were okay--there were no surprises. We have some work to do to catch the people in the front, but we are on pace.”

He doesn’t have many to catch as only Simon Pagenaud, who was quickest with a time of 1 minute, 9.1488 seconds, four-time Long Beach winner Sebastian Bourdais and rookie Jack Hawksworth were faster. Will Power rounded out the top five.

A.J. Foyt, who missed last year’s victory with his team due to impending surgery for a back ailment, is at Long Beach this weekend.

Teams will have one more 45-minute practice tomorrow morning before qualifying begins just after 1 p.m. as 23 drivers vie for the Verizon P1 pole position.

The race will be broadcast live by NBC Sports Network Sunday afternoon starting at 4 p.m. ET.

Notes & Quotes: Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach

Takuma Sato is in his fifth season driving Indy cars; it is his second year with the ABC Supply/AJ Foyt Racing team. Following are Takuma’s thoughts on:

o Standing starts: “I like standing starts in general. Most of my racing career I had done in that way until I arrived in the IndyCar Series, but I don’t mind the standing or rolling starts. It’s nice to show the fans and be a little different. We had only done standing starts twice in the last season and on both occasions it was pretty good, so I expect the Long Beach start will be spectacular.  On the technical side, the Honda engine configuration is different this year because it’s a twin turbo so we need to adapt for the new torque curve. We didn’t have much chance to practice at winter testing so we will see how we can catch up and improve our start performance in the practice sessions. Long Beach has done standing starts in its history so it should be fun.”

o Coming back to Long Beach as the defending winner: “It was a very special day for me, so going back there I feel good and confident. We should be able to show a strong performance again.”

o How the Long Beach victory changed him: “It changed my environment nicely a bit, but the important point is that as we did it, we became a very strong group as a team. I always believed that we could do the job but until you’ve actually done it, it would be only a hope, a dream and an objective. You believe it, and keep challenging, then it happens.”

o The key to running well at Long Beach: “Long Beach is a typical street course, mostly 90 degree corners. So the car needs to react well from heavy braking to sharp turn-in and quick exit. Also the track has one of the tightest and slowest hairpins in the series and so it requires very strong traction coming out corner.”

o How tough it would be to win back-to-back races: “It will always be tough to win this race-- everything has to be perfect -- but why not?  We will certainly try our best and aim to win.”