After narrow loss, Sato looks ahead to Indy 500

2 Comments

Despite losing a heart-pounding battle with James Hinchcliffe in the Sao Paulo Indy 300, runner-up Takuma Sato still had a great day on multiple fronts and proved that his victory two weeks ago at Long Beach was no fluke.

Sato vigorously defended his lead during the final laps and his moves against both Hinchcliffe and eventual fifth-place finisher Josef Newgarden raised some eyebrows. Nonetheless, he stayed ahead on a set of tires that were almost 40 laps old until the very last corner, where Hinchcliffe got by him on the inside and went on to take the win.

“I had the same tire [for the] last 35, 37 laps — really much longer than we predicted,” Sato said. “I was really struggling on the grip the last laps.  I really had to deal with a lot of things.

“The last few laps was great fun from a driver’s point of view.  It’s a real pity that I lost it on the final lap of the race on the final corner. But that shows how we are competitive…A win would be great, but otherwise, I really fought hard on the track today and I’m really proud of the whole team. The guys did a great job.”

With Helio Castroneves’ down day on the track this afternoon, Sato’s runner-up finish has put him on top of the IZOD IndyCar Series championship by 13 points over Marco Andretti going into the Indianapolis 500. He also earned his second consecutive podium in Brazil, having finished third for Rahal Letterman Lanigan there last year.

Sato crashed on the final lap of last year’s “500” while attempting a pass at Turn 1 for the lead on Dario Franchitti. Even so, his recent success has him believing that he can be a threat once again at the Brickyard.

“The team [has spent] a long time [preparing] from the wintertime to get to Indianapolis,” he said. “So does everyone else, so we will see. We [will] see how we build up for the month of May. I have great confidence of the team doing a great job at the ‘500’.”

Michael Andretti looking forward to new Australian Supercars venture

Getty Images
Leave a comment

If it seems like Michael Andretti is out to conquer the world, he is – kind of.

The former IndyCar star turned prolific team owner has won three of the last four Indianapolis 500s and five overall, second only to Roger Penske’s 16 Indy 500 triumphs.

Along the way, in addition to expanding his own IndyCar and Indy Lights operation, the son of Mario Andretti and the primary shareholder of Andretti Autosport has also branched out into Global RallyCross and Formula E racing in recent years.

And now, Andretti has further expanded his brand internationally, following Penske to the world down under — as in the world of Australian V8 Supercars.

Andretti has teamed with Supercars team owner Ryan Walkinshaw, along with veteran motorsports marketer and executive director of McLaren Technology Group and United Autosports owner and chairman, Zak Brown.

Together, the three have formed Walkinshaw Andretti United, based in suburban Melbourne, Australia. The new team kicks off the new season with the Adelaide 500 from March 1-4.

“It’s just extending our brand and putting it out there,” Andretti told NBC Sports. “The Supercars are such a great series.

“It all started with Zach Brown calling me and said ‘You have to talk to Ryan Walkinshaw. He’s got something interesting to talk to you about.’

“We talked and literally in like a half-hour, we said, ‘Let’s figure out how we’re going to make this work.’ And then Zack was like, ‘Hey, what about me?’ And then Zack came in as a partner and it’s cool now that we have the Walkinshaw Andretti United team.

“I’m really excited about that program, the guys at the shop are excited about it, we’ve been doing a lot of things to try and help it because it’s such a cool series and the cars are so cool.

“I went down there to Bathurst, which was to me one of the coolest tracks in the world. I wish I could have driven it, I really do. It looks like a blast.

“It’s amazing how big that series is when you go down there. It’s one of the biggest sports in Australia. It was just a great opportunity for us to extend our portfolio.”

Admittedly, Andretti had some extra incentive to want to get involved in the Supercars world: Penske joined forces with legendary Dick Johnson Racing in September 2014.

The organization came together quickly and the rebranded DJR Team Penske went on to win the 2017 V8 Supercars championship.

“Roger was down there the last few years,” Andretti said, adding that fact as incentive to get his own organization into the series. “So it’s cool to go race head-to-head with Roger. That was also in the back of our minds.”

This is no start-up venture for Andretti. The roots of the new venture began in 1990 as the Holden Racing Team, which went on to become one of the most successful organizations in Australian V8 Supercar racing, having won the drivers’ championship six times and the Virgin Australia Supercars Championship’s top race, the Bathurst 1000 (essentially Australia’s version of the Indy 500), seven times.

Last season, Holden Racing team morphed into Triple Eight Race Engineering and was renamed Mobil 1 HSV Racing.

And now the company has been renamed once again for the 2018 campaign under the Walkinshaw Andretti United banner.

The team will be composed of two Holden ZB Commodores with drivers James Courtney and Scott Pye, as well as a Porsche 911 GT3-R in the Australian GT championship.

What’s next for Andretti’s motorsports portfolio? Right now, it’s pretty full, but you can bet running for championships from Australia (Supercars) to globally (GRC) to Indianapolis (Indy 500) to the U.S. (Verizon IndyCar Series) are at the top of this year’s list.