Former F1 driver Sato will start his 13th season IndyCar race at his new home with Romain Grosjean’s recently vacant # 51 Coyne-RWR entry. A memorandum of understanding between the driver and the team was signed a few months ago, and all subsequent delays were to “finish the details.”
But now, with the news coming out, for the first time in its history, a small team in Plainfield, Illinois has an Indy 500 winner in the book – Twice Indy’s winner, no less.
It’s a one-year contract so far, but both Sato and Coin say they have the option to continue on Motorsport.com and intend to do so. This is a particularly interesting manifestation of faith from the team. Other drivers over the age of 40, and drivers still in their thirties, are clinging to part-time vehicles, or even half the chances, with their fingernails. Coin has no clear restrictions on its relationship with drivers who turn 45 in January.
A decent step-off point to a conversation with Sato.
DML: You are almost 45 years old now. Do you feel as good as when you joined IndyCar at KV Racing in 2010?
NS: Yes, but it can’t be physically compared to 10 years ago. When comparing purely physical performance (recovery speed, flexibility, etc.) to sports teenagers, there may be some reduction. But as a complete package as a racing driver, including experience and mental preparation, I still feel that we are moving upwards. If you feel that you’re not as sick as last year, stop because you need to succeed at 100% with IndyCar instead of 100%. But that day hasn’t come yet. I feel fully motivated and fully prepared for the next full season of IndyCar, both physically and mentally.
Did you think you were there because you didn’t even have a hint that you were looking out of the 2022 IndyCar? Given your Honda link, I thought the Acura sports car plan was an obvious option for you …
Endurance racing could definitely have been an interesting opportunity, but I wanted to focus on IndyCar if I had the opportunity. To be honest, I’m open to other categories in the future, but I can’t refuse a full-time ride in IndyCar.
Dale Coyne Racing has been very fast on the Indy 500 for several years. Was it one of the main attractions of the team for you?
Indeed, that’s a very attractive point. Dale’s car was very fast with different specifications and different conditions. Unfortunately he couldn’t finish the run, but everyone remembers Sebastien Baude’s stunning qualifying lap in 2017. And since then, their cars have been running fast in races and qualifying. There are also chassis changes, aero kits, aero screens added … Dale’s team knows how to run faster on the speedway in any situation. It definitely fascinates me-and in fact, as a pure driver, I’m interested in driving his car and seeing how similar or different it is to previous cars. Sure, it’s one of the smaller teams, but they’ve shown consistent speed over the years.
Romain Grosjean – and before that, Alex Palou and Sebastien Baude – won the coin podium on the road and street courses. Is the chance to make these circuits shine after struggling with RLL in the last two seasons?
I think I found a pretty good speed on the Rahal Letterman Lanigan road course later this year. But I know what you mean. Grosjean’s pace last season was very impressive, but Romain is one of the best drivers in the series. But even the best driver can’t shine without a good car, so I think the rookie Romaine is a very good sign next year. The team must be doing a very good job.
David Marcus hasn’t been identified as a teammate yet, but in principle, what do you think about working with a rookie? No matter how talented he is, he has been able to share data with veteran teammates on the previous two rides. Like Graham Rahal or Ryan Hunter-Reay? Does rookie inexperience affect your progress and your team’s progress?
Well, well, I think the most important thing is whether your teammates are fast, and with David we when he was the fastest in that IndyCar test at Indy Lights and Barber. I saw it very fast. To be honest, I think it gives the team and me confidence. This means that when sharing data, it’s always helpful for the driver to gain experience early, but next year it can bring the experience that this car needs to be fast, without making any actual changes to the car. I think you can and newcomers will benefit from experience.
Another reason to not worry about rookie teammates is that Dale has a reputation for bringing in the next generation of drivers and helping them learn everything about IndyCar, so they can speed up their rookie drivers very quickly. I know .. I think every young driver should join the Dale Coyne team! With the additional support of Rick Ware, the team will be even stronger, which will be good for both myself and my teammates. I think it will be a great combination.
Obviously, IndyCar’s regulations on testing are very limited – I think it’s only one day before St. Petersburg. Despite all your experience, is it particularly difficult for teams to change drivers?
It’s definitely very difficult, especially after working for the same team for four years, finding and fixing what worked a year ago and pacing it very easily. Now let’s see what Coyne used a year ago, remember what he did a year ago, and see which one is currently the most effective. As a result, doing all this obviously takes a lot of time and requires a lot of adaptation to the new ones. A combination of driver and team.
Yes, it’s never easy with just one day of testing. This is a little ridiculous and a little scary. What if I run into a problem that I can’t run that day? There is no system check or pit stop practice, so the first day to study together as a team is the first day of practice in St. Petersburg …
But that’s the rule and we can’t control it. That’s why we’re trying to make the most of our time now and ensure that we do everything we can before that. We already have a seat fitting at Dale’s race shop and need to redesign the car to suit my taste. Hopefully you will feel relaxed and happy in the car.
Dale Coyne always enjoys being a vulnerable person who can fight big teams. Is that what you enjoy? Would you like to return to F1 days with Super Aguri?
Ha! Yes, I like it. It’s a small team, but it’s very well organized and I’m used to being a small team. Unlike large teams that suddenly lose money and need to scale down. This is a small team that knows how to operate, and everyone knows what others are doing.
I must say that I really like Dale’s personality. I think I was very fortunate to be able to work with an IndyCar boss who has a good understanding of the driver. Probably because they used to be drivers. First my friends Jimmy Vasser, then Bobby, then AJ and Larry Foyt, Michael Andretti, Bobby, and now Dale.
I never forgot this time in Wisconsin on the 2017 Road America weekend. I was having dinner with a physiotherapist and saw Dale and Galecoin on the other side of the room. Dale and I hadn’t talked to him before, but he stood up and ran into the room, celebrating Indy’s victory a few weeks ago. He didn’t have a reason to do that and he didn’t have to talk to me because he worked for a rival team, so I thought it was very sweet. His driver. He just loves racing and respects the people who do it.
So I really enjoyed the moment and never forgot it. And now, we’ve been working together for over four years now. I’m really excited and to be honest, I wish I could go to the test tomorrow. I think our potential is very strong and we hope we can reach that maximum as soon as possible.
Photo: Geoffrey M. Miller / Motorsport image
Takuma Sato’s Q & A regarding participation in Dale Coyne Racing
https://www.motorsport.com/indycar/news/sato-coyne-interview-2022-potential/6866388/?utm_source=RSS&utm_medium=referral&utm_campaign=RSS-ALL&utm_term=News&utm_content=www Takuma Sato’s Q & A regarding participation in Dale Coyne Racing