AVONDALE, Ariz. – Both Takuma Sato and James Hinchcliffe were checked, cleared and released after heavy, near identical accidents in opening practice for the Verizon IndyCar Series’ Desert Diamond West Valley Phoenix Grand Prix.
Some Honda teams rolled out with 2015 rear wheel pod assemblies, and that’s key to note, because it played a big role in both accidents.
Within the first 10 minutes of the session, we had the first accident when Takuma Sato lost control of his No. 14 ABC Supply Co. Honda and backed it in hard at Turn 2.
Past the half hour mark, James Hinchcliffe had a near identical impact in his No. 5 Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda, losing it in Turn 1 and backing it in in Turn 2. He hit the yellow line in Turn 1 in a later apex, and that helped snap his rear end.
Both drivers were evaluated and released from the infield care center. However, both were running the 2015 rear wheel pods, with lower downforce on (blame me for taking both pics in advance…)
“It was quite big impact, but I’m good,” Sato told NBCSN’s Robin Miller. “It was a quick spin. I lost it. It was a little bit too much oversteer. We did qualifying trim. Unfortunately we lost it at the back.
“The car’s pretty damaged. We were reasonably happy with the balance in testing. The car felt good on the test day. But it was my first shot at qualifying trim, and we were slightly off.”
Larry Foyt told NBCSN they plan to repair the No. 14 car in time for qualifying.
Meanwhile Hinchcliffe was happy to emerge unscathed after his first accident since his accident at Indianapolis last May.
“It’s unfortunate. I was doing a quali sim; we had a bunch of understeer in the car,” Hinchcliffe told Miller. “We tried to dial it out. We’d had that understeer in 3 and 4 … and the thing just snapped.
“It’s a huge kick in the nuts, especially with as little track time as we get.
“We’ll get it buttoned up. Focus on what we can from here. Going a buck 80 (180) feels as fast as 220 at the Speedway. The one difference is we had a different race series with a different kind of rubber (NASCAR raced here in March with Goodyear rubber). It’s freaky, two guys, that close together, in exactly the same spot.”