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.