until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League


Sato thinks Rahal needs to expand to join IndyCar elite

by Jack Benyon
5 min read

until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League

Takuma Sato believes that a third car for his Rahal Letterman Lanigan team would give the squad a better chance at competing with the big IndyCar operations more consistently.

Sato won last year’s Indianapolis 500 with the team – which often expands for that event but rarely for others – but apart from that major win Sato only scored one other podium and his team-mate Graham Rahal took three.

Both drivers finished in the top 10 in the championship for a second consecutive year, but neither posed a major threat to the ‘big three’ of Andretti Autosport, Chip Ganassi Racing and Team Penske.

Sato has experience of both ends of the scale, having been part of a four-car full-time Andretti Autosport line-up in 2017 and also had a spell as the AJ Foyt team’s sole driver.

“I think it’s beneficial to multiply the team-mates,” said Sato during IndyCar’s pre-season media days.

“I’ve had the experience with Andretti Autosport as you may know. Until then, the Foyt days were great, really like a tight family feeling with AJ Foyt and Larry Foyt.

“I loved that AJ Foyt Racing team while I was there.

“But of course the team-mates are always helping each other because we divide the programme.

Takuma Sato

“If you have two cars, if you have three cars, if you have five cars, with one session you basically double the information.

“It is definitely valuable.

“But equally the quality control, the build spec, and I think to manage all the data and the engineers, all the things, becomes more comprehensive too.

“As long as you have the environment and resource to help solve this matter of the huge data, I’d love to have more team-mates.

“But that’s something that the team [has to] make a decision [about].

“At the moment Graham and I are working extremely close together to build the relationship and the consistency through the platform at Rahal, becoming stronger and stronger.

“Hopefully we can continue this good job. But to be better, I think we need to expand for sure.”

Sato’s team-mate Rahal also addressed the idea of a third full-time RLLR entry – something his father and team owner Bobby has stated would only happen if the correct backing is found.

Asked if the data garnered by a third car would be a good step to help the team move forward, Graham Rahal replied: “It is if it’s beneficial. What I mean by that is, it only works if all the guys are performing at their max level and you are getting a lot of data out of it.

Graham Rahal

“It does not work or it does not help, and it just becomes a distraction, if that third car is not giving back as much as it takes. That’s the hardest part of that thing.

“I’ll say this: My focus this year is just so much on my car, just on the #15 car solely, that I’m really not concerned too much about if they want to run a third car.

“If the owners decide that’s what they want to do, fine, but it’s not really up to me.”

The team is in the process of a number of improvements including investing $20million building a new facility in Zionsville which will house its IndyCar programme and IMSA SportsCar team as well.

It has also added an esports project for 2021 in association with the Apex Racing Team.

The engineering side of the team in IndyCar is also being bolstered in 2021, including the addition of Matthew Greasley, formerly of Carlin, to take over as Sato’s engineer.

Greasley has significant international experience from teams including Fortec, Strakka, Mitsubishi’s world rally programme, the Arrows F1 team and most recently Carlin.

Takuma Sato

“It is challenging, just building the new relationship,” said Sato.

“I have got another English engineer, which is always nice. Always I feel like a back-home feeling. Matt has been very established in the sport. He has tremendous experience.

“Of course, he hasn’t had much IndyCar experience, but I think the team engineers are very supportive.

“We’ve just done two or three actual tests. So all the time we are engaging more and more. We are just understanding [each other] more.

“But, of course, before we go to the racing, it’s very limited the things we can do. But I’ve got a really great feeling, and particularly for the 500, we’ll see. We just don’t know.

Takuma Sato IndyCar testing 2021

“I can support with experience. But as well, I think Matt will be bringing something new for our team. We have new ideas, that is always interesting.

“I think so far it is a really good feeling.”

The 2021 IndyCar season kicks off at Barber Motorsports Park on April 18. Sato was the last winner at the venue in IndyCar – back in 2019, as the 2020 event was cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Graham Rahal recently managed enough laps for two race distances at the same venue during testing and has been by far the most active driver in pre-season in terms of laps completed.

Illness for Sato during the first Sebring test also contributed to Rahal’s heavy run plan.

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Email
  • More Networks