Notes & Quotes: Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama

Takuma Sato: No. 14 ABC Supply Honda

Jack Hawksworth: No. 41 ABC Supply Honda

TAKUMA SATO ON:

Barber Motorsports Park: "Barber is an impressive road course that I always enjoy driving. The track has many challenging high-speed corners and it flows beautifully. I also enjoy the great support from fans who are really enthusiastic for motor racing and just the nice overall atmosphere. The museum is truly impressive too!  I look forward to being back there!"

The momentum going into Barber: “We are carrying good momentum from the productive Barber test and of course the Long Beach race. It’s very important to build a confidence and good atmosphere for the whole team and certainly these two events have done that. I’m quite excited to do this busy back-to-back racing.”

The test at Barber: “It was not too long ago and wasn’t super cold like the previous year's open test, so this year’s test results are quite relevant for this week’s race preparation. It was our first time to use the revised 2016 Honda aero package on the road course and we learned a lot. Now we have a better understanding of it and as a result we have more experiment test items we need to go through the early part of race weekend.”

The best place to pass: “Not many places in Barber, but it will be at T5 hairpin.”

His favorite sculpture or artwork around the track: “They are all interesting… and I probably haven’t seen or found them all because some are hidden. We can’t really see them from the race car or let’s put it this way that we just don’t see them. However, when we go for a track walk with the engineers before the race weekend, we see them; some are quite funny and some are actually scary! If I need to pick the one I like, it could be a big man trying to push the wall… it’s almost like I want to say “Oi! What are you doing there, sir?” It’s quite funny actually.”

His favorite food in Alabama (ribs? cornbread? okra?):  “I love OKRA. We have lots of them in Japan but I haven’t had it in Alabama so now that’s one of my missions; I want to find it this weekend.”

What he enjoys most about the track’s museum: “I enjoy it a lot! The whole museum is like a jewelry box! Great architecture and everything is so beautifully laid out. Each machine is so dedicated and it all looks to be in great condition. Amazingly, I believe most of them are runnable so that’s very impressive.”

Driving or flying there? “It’s our tradition for a few years now that my manager [Steve Fusek], his wife [Sue] and I drive down together from Indianapolis. I usually ‘book my seat’ called 1-C, which is a comfortable, air-conditioned, reclining leather seat with drink and food service from the lovely Cabin Attendant [Sue]. It even has free Wi-Fi available! It is because of the first class service that I enjoy this journey a lot.” The Fuseks have dubbed Takuma “The gentleman in 1-C.”

JACK HAWKSWORTH ON:

Barber Motorsports Park: "Barber is a great track that really flows well. The high speed corners and elevation changes make it a lot of fun to drive. I have won there in the ladder series and always enjoy coming back."

The Barber test: “We had a very good test. We were able to test many items and expand our knowledge base of this tricky circuit. The pace of the car was very good all day and I think we finally have a good understanding of where we need to be setup-wise for this track. The test conditions were pretty warm as well so hopefully this should translate to the race weekend conditions.”

What is more important there -- mechanical grip or aero: “Mechanical grip is always crucial wherever you go. Having said that, Barber has many fast sweeping corners where the car is creating a lot of downforce. In all honesty they are both married to one another and finding the correct balance between mechanical grip and the aero platform is very important.”

His favorite sculpture/artwork around the track: “I have to say as beautiful as the place is, I have never really paid too much attention to the artwork. I believe there is a spider somewhere? Yes I'll go with the spider.”

Working with Daniele Cucchiaroni as your race engineer: “Daniele was my performance engineer at Bryan Herta Autosport in 2014 and also at the start of this year. He joined AJ Foyt Racing at the same time as me. He is exceptionally talented and bleeds racing. We have a very good relationship and I always knew he would engineer my car at some point. I just didn't expect it to be so soon! I'm looking forward to the weekend and starting our season in Barber.”

His favorite food from that area: “California Pizza Grill and Panera Bread?”

The track's museum: “Yes, the museum is incredible. Some fantastic racing bikes and cars are on display. Every time I leave I can't help but wonder how much the collection is worth!”

Daniele Cucchiaroni is promoted to race engineer: Cucchiaroni, who worked as the performance engineer on Takuma Sato’s car last year, moved over to Hawksworth’s No. 41 ABC Supply Honda for the 2016 season. Following the release of Hawksworth’s race engineer Dan Hobbs after the Long Beach Grand Prix, Cucchiaroni was elevated to race engineer starting with this weekend’s race. The 35-year-old engineer, of Spoleto, Italy, is in his third year of IndyCar racing. Prior to coming to the U.S., Cucchiaroni was a race engineer on the European GP2 circuit. He earned his 2nd Level degree (akin to a PhD) in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Perugia in Italy.

Past Performance at Barber: Takuma Sato’s best start is 6th (2010) and his best finish is 13th (2014). Jack Hawksworth’s best start in two races was 19th (2015) and his best finish was 12th (2014). AJ Foyt Racing’s best start and finish—fourth and seventh respectively—came in 2012 with driver Mike Conway.

Last race: At Long Beach, Takuma Sato started eighth and finished fifth for his first top-five finish of the season. He is now sixth in the Verizon IndyCar standings.  Jack Hawksworth started 20th and finished 21st.

Vote for A.J. Today through 12 noon ET, Thursday, April 21

Who is the best driver in Indianapolis 500 Mile Race history? Fans now have the opportunity to vote for theirs in the “Champions of the 500” bracket challenge.

Sixteen of the greatest Indianapolis 500 winners – legendary names ranging from Shaw to Montoya, Vukovich to Franchitti – have been selected to square off in a digital voting platform that begins at noon ET today and runs through May 23, leading to the historic 100th Running of the Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil on May 29.

Fans can vote for their #Champsofthe500 every hour during the contest by visiting ims.com/champsofthe500, and are encouraged to tout their votes by using the hashtag #Champsofthe500 in Facebook and Twitter posts. The voting contest runs in conjunction with Legends Day Honoring Champions of the 500 presented by Firestone at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on May 28.

The Round of 16 features a pair of bracket showdowns running three days each and concluding April 30. The eight winners by popular vote advance to the quarterfinal round, with the semifinals and championship round to follow.

The opening bracket matchups feature four-time Indianapolis 500 winner A.J. Foyt going against two-time winner and reigning champion Juan Pablo Montoya, and back-to-back winner Bill Vukovich paired against three-time victor Wilbur Shaw. Voting for these bracket pairings is underway now through noon ET April 21.

The next first-round showdowns running April 21-24 feature all three-time Indianapolis 500 winners. Helio Castroneves goes against Louis Meyer and Mauri Rose takes on Bobby Unser.

The challenge from April 24-27 sees four-time winner Al Unser against his friend and 1963 winner Parnelli Jones. Also, two-time winner Al Unser Jr. goes up against three-time champion Johnny Rutherford.

The final two first-round matchups April 27-30 find four-time winner Rick Mears taking on two-time champ and fan favorite Dan Wheldon, as well as 1969 winner Mario Andretti going head-to-head with three-time victor Dario Franchitti.

The voting period for each matchup begins at noon ET on the designated start day and ends at noon ET on the designated end day. Again, votes may be cast each hour.

Show your pride and vote for your #Champsofthe500.

#Champsofthe500 First-Round Pairings:

April 18-21: A.J. Foyt vs. Juan Pablo Montoya; Bill Vukovich vs. Wilbur Shaw

April 21-24: Helio Castroneves vs. Louis Meyer; Mauri Rose vs. Bobby Unser

April 24-27: Al Unser vs. Parnelli Jones; Al Unser Jr. vs. Johnny Rutherford

April 27-30: Rick Mears vs. Dan Wheldon; Mario Andretti vs. Dario Franchitti

Note: Voting begins and ends at noon ET on the designated days; driver receiving the most votes in each pairing advances to the quarterfinal round to follow. Vote at ims.com/champsofthe500.

 

 

 

 

 

Race Report: Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach

LONG BEACH, Calif. April 17, 2016—Elation and heartbreak. That was the saga in both of the ABC Supply pits today. Takuma Sato drove a great race and the No. 14 ABC Supply Honda team did a tremendous job in the pits as Sato claimed his first top-five of the season in the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach.

Starting eighth, Sato bided his time for the first two-thirds of the race, saving fuel as his pit strategy called for just two stops in the 80-lap race. Terrific pit work on both stops saw Sato either maintain his position of eighth as he did in the first stop, or better his position as he did in the final stop coming out in sixth ahead of Will Power and James Hinchcliffe. With 23 laps to go, he then made a brilliant pass on Tony Kanaan for fifth. In the final 10 laps, he challenged Juan Pablo Montoya for fourth.

"We're very pleased about today's result,” Sato said afterwards. “Considering where we were in practice, we had such a strong comeback to qualify eighth. With no cautions in the race, we had to save fuel from lap 2 which was a tough game. But we kept cool –there was no margin for error--and it was just a matter of who could do the best job. When I needed to, I pushed like hell. Passing Tony Kanaan and challenging Juan Pablo Montoya for fourth, that was a thrill. The team did a fantastic job in the pits and got me out so I could push so hard. There was a good strategy and the car worked really well.  It was a great accomplishment for the team.  We're very pleased."

Jack Hawksworth, who started 20th, was trying an alternate pit strategy—pitting early and hoping for a yellow that never came in the caution-free race. It may have been for naught anyway because they never did find the sweet spot on the No. 41 car and Hawksworth struggled throughout the race. He finished 21st.

“Obviously a really hard day,” said the dejected driver afterwards. “Nothing makes any sense because we rolled out very quick but, similar to St Pete, the car wasn’t drivable in the race. I think we may have a fundamental problem in the car somewhere so we need to investigate that and start again at Barber. We were fast there when we tested the other week so we know we have a good setup. It’s just a matter of getting the fundamentals right. Pretty heartbreaking day for us but glad that the 14 had a good run.”

Simon Pagenaud won the race while Scott Dixon finished second. Pole winner Helio Castroneves was third followed by Montoya. Sato was the first Honda-powered car. He is currently sixth in the Verizon IndyCar Series standings.

The teams head to Barber Motorsports Park for the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama which will be televised April 24th, Sunday afternoon on the NBC Sports Network.

 

 

Qualifying Report: Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach

Two different directions and two different results can sometimes be the bane of a two-car team. It was the case for the ABC Supply team today in qualifying. However, they found out definitively what worked and what didn’t.

Takuma Sato’s team made the right calls as the 2013 Long Beach winner made the biggest gain from morning practice where he was 16th to qualify eighth. Sato was the second quickest Honda, being eclipsed by seventh starting James Hinchcliffe by just seven hundredths of a second. The session was made more difficult as the timing and scoring data wasn’t available to the teams during the session due to a malfunctioning timing beacon. Teams had to wait until officials sorted through the data to figure out positions five minutes after the session had ended.

"I think we should be happy with the result under the circumstances,” said Sato, who posted a quick time of 1 minute, 7.22 seconds. “We had difficulty in this morning's practice but in qualifying we caught up to the quickest Hondas. It was a shame it was a couple tenths down from the top six especially because we had a little confusion in the second segment when we didn't have any lap times for reference. So I needed to keep pushing and I feel I lost a little bit cause I caught up to the car ahead of me and had to lift on my final lap which was my fastest lap. But I think the ABC Supply team and engineering did a great job to make the car faster. After practice we went through all the data and came up with a different philosophy on the setup. I'm very proud of them. We'll aim to have a clean and strong race tomorrow."

Hawksworth’s team, in an attempt to better their performance which had been 11th or better during the weekend, made some changes that didn’t work as well as intended.  Hawksworth posted a lap time of 1 minute, 7.99 seconds, and will start 20th. He said, "It was a disappointing qualifying for us. We struggled for grip and didn't really have any bite. Obviously we were more competitive in practice so we have to figure out what went on and come back and recover tomorrow."

The Firestone Fast Six was comprised of Chevrolet-powered teams with Helio Castroneves winning the pole with a lap time of 1 minute, 7.12 seconds. Second through fifth were Scott Dixon, Simon Pagenaud, Tony Kanaan, and Juan Pablo Montoya. Teammate Will Power lost his two fastest laps (which would have put him on pole) when he brought out a red flag and will start sixth.

There will be a morning warmup for teams to finalize their race setups. The Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach will be broadcast on NBC Sports Network starting at 4 p.m. ET.