Race Report: Go Pro Grand Prix of Sonoma

SONOMA, Calif. Aug. 24, 2013--All's well that ends well. Takuma Sato's day started with an earthquake and ended with a fourth place finish in the Go Pro Grand Prix of Sonoma--his best finish of the season in the No. 14 ABC Supply Honda.

It took determination, perseverance and teamwork to score both his and the team's best ever finish at the picturesque 2.38-mile road course which was not materially affected by the 6.1 earthquake that hit nearby Napa in the early morning hours.

In the morning warmup, fuel pressure issues cut short the team's session. Unable to determine the cause, the team changed the engine as a precaution.

Starting 20th, Sato couldn't avoid the debris from a multicast accident in Turn 2 immediately after the green flag waved. He had to pit for a puncture in his tire and a new nose and wing assembly.

Sato ran at the back of the 22-car field but worked his way up to 17th. He was one of just a handful of cars to pit during the full course yellow which came out on lap 30. In fact, he pitted on four the five caution laps as the crw topped him off with fuel each time.

When a second full course caution came out on lap 36, Sato vaulted from 21st to fifth as most of the field pitted. Sato was able to conserve his fuel and maintain his top five position until he made his final stop on lap 61.

Unfortunately, after a normal service of fuel and tires, Sato had to stop to avoid hitting Marco Andretti who entered his pit at the moment Sato was trying to leave his pit. Sato rejoined the field in 11th.

Once the pit stops cycled out, Sato was running a solid seventh. He passed Juan Pablo Montoya on track and then gained two more spots when leaders Graham Rahal pitted with three laps to go and Mike Conway sputtered across the line, dropping from third to 14th.

Qualifying Report: Go Pro Grand Prix of Sonoma

SONOMA, Calif. Aug. 23, 2014—Takuma Sato appeared to be headed for a good qualifying run in the No. 14 ABC Supply Honda but he was disappointed when he didn’t make it past the first round. He will start 20th in the Go Pro Grand Prix of Sonoma.

Indeed, in his group of 11 cars, he was fifth during his first three laps on the primary tires. However when he put on the red tires, he didn’t gain the half to three-quarters of a second that was expected from the softer compound tires.

“We continued to work to improve the car throughout the first two practices and did make good progress,” said Sato. “I felt the balance was getting better. Unfortunately when we put the red tires on halfway through the first round of qualifying, I felt a little more grip but the gain was very limited compared to everyone else. We have to find more speed. It was tough but hopefully in tomorrow morning’s warmup, we’ll find a better solution.”

Will Power won the Verizon P1 Award. Second through sixth were Josef Newgarden, Scott Dixon, James Hinchcliffe, Ryan Briscoe and Helio Castroneves.

The Go Pro Grand Prix of Sonoma will be televised Sunday afternoon starting at 4 p.m. ET on the NBC Sports Network.

On a lighter note, A.J. Foyt accepted his son Larry’s challenge to participate in the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. Larry made sure that his father was sitting down when he dumped the five gallon bucket of ice water on him. Click here to see:  AJ Foyt’s Ice Bucket Challenge.

Foyt said afterwards, “The bad part was me knowing it was coming. It was like when you spin out and you see that wall coming and there’s nothing you can do about it. Larry got me really good but it was for a good cause. I assure though that I will never do that again!” Larry Foyt’s ALS Ice Bucket Challenge video can be found on YouTube or at AJFoytRacing.com.

NOTES & QUOTES: Go Pro Grand Prix of Sonoma

Takuma Sato and the ABC Supply/AJ Foyt Racing team are in their second season together. Sato is making his fifth start at Sonoma Raceway.

Takuma Sato On:

  • Sonoma Raceway: “A series of high speed corners with massive elevation changes gives the driver a real challenge to race this great road-course. A couple of corners at hilltop are un-sighted on exit, you can only see the blue Californian sky so it is very challenging to get it right in terms of positioning and approaching speed, etc. You need a lot of commitment which I generally love! I also really like the area which is world famous as great wine country. Great food, fantastic wines and a pretty village, what else do you need? I always wish that this was not as busy a race weekend so I can enjoy Sonoma more.”
  • The key setup for the race: “The track is generally low grip as it is set on a dry sandy hill so you need very good mechanical grip. However, there are so many high-speed corners so it also requires good platform control to stabilize the aerodynamics and that usually needs stiff car (minimum movement) which makes the mechanical grip go away. So you have to deal with two conflicts and that’s pretty challenging to get it balanced from an engineering point of view too. Having said it’s a low grip track, the DW12 car generates a great amount of down-force in the high speed corners, so it gets very physical as well. Consequently Sonoma Raceway is very tough to get it perfect for multiple reasons but once the car is right, it will be so much fun!”
  • Goals for this race: “The team is working hard for the road-course set up which we haven’t been happy with for a long time but our last road-course test was quite successful so I feel very positive that we are heading in the right direction for Sonoma Raceway. We aim to have as strong a finish as possible.”
  • The season’s end in sight: “It’s hard to believe the season’s end is in sight already. We have been in very tough situations so many times this year, and we haven’t been able to achieve the result we should have yet. We are going to carry good momentum for these two great race events in California and finish off the season on a high note!”

Past performance: In his four races at Sonoma, Sato’s best start was 13th last year with Foyt Racing and his best finish was 18th in 2010 and 2011 with KV Racing. In nine appearances, the Foyt team’s best start (13th) was also last year with Sato; its best finish (10th) came in 2005 with Jeff Bucknum.

ABC Supply will host over 400 guests on race day at Sonoma. The company is in its tenth year as primary sponsor of A.J. Foyt’s No. 14. Since ABC Supply began sponsoring AJ Foyt Racing in 2005, they have entertained well over 55,000 people at Verizon IndyCar Series events.