Takuma Sato, RLL, Indycar, Indianapolis 500, 2020

Sato says he didn’t need late caution to win Indy 500


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Takuma Sato dismissed suggestions he wouldn’t have won the Indianapolis 500 had it not been for a late caution period at the end of the race.

The Rahal-Letterman-Lanigan driver scored his second victory in the race yesterday. He took the lead from Scott Dixon lap 172 of 200, and a caution period triggered by a heavy crash for team mate Spencer Pigot with five laps to go guaranteed his victory.

While Dixon doubted Sato could have made it to the end of the race at the speed he was running, the winner said he wasn’t concerned about his fuel mileage if the race had stayed green.

“I knew towards the end of the stint I had very good speed,” he said. “However, after the restart, when I got the lead, I got a voice from the pit basically [saying I was] using too much fuel.

“I had to back off with leaner mixture. You can see immediately Scott caught me and tried to give it a go. At that point I had to switch back to the maximum power.

“He was three cars, four cars behind. I went with the leaner mixture. We were close. Even without it, I was hitting the number. If you scan my radio, we were on the number. Even [if] we’d gone through the entire green, I think we’d be okay.

“However, still I think I would be threatened by Dixie for the last few laps where he will be probably at 100% power. I had some of that in the pocket, but otherwise it was very, very close.”

Takuma Sato, RLL, Indycar, Indianapolis 500, 2020
The race ended under caution
Sato said he was relieved to see Pigot emerged unscathed from his heavy impact with a barrier.

“I know fans wanted to see a chequered flag battle for the win. Sometimes it happens.

“I feel glad that my team mate Spencer got out of the car. It looked a really bad angle, I was a little worried about it.

“Once again, an improvement for the safety of IndyCar. IndyCar did a phenomenal job with the Aeroscreen, we now feel so much protection. I think they’ve done a fantastic job.”

Sato has now won the race twice since turning 40. “I never even imagined a situation like today,” he said. “Look, after 40 years old, still driving, that is just living in a dream. People said 2012 was probably my peak and the best shot. Well, we’ll see. We kept on going.”

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Keith Collantine
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20 comments on “Sato says he didn’t need late caution to win Indy 500”

  1. I’m a bit surprised by how old many drivers are, especially compared to F1. I wonder why so many F1 drivers stop before turning 40 (and often before turning 35), when Indycar drivers seem to be fine doing an additional 10 years at the highest level.

    1. Trent Stephens
      24th August 2020, 16:13

      My guess is the traveling isn’t as taxing? Less races on 1 continent? Takes a tole on family life, especially if they have kids.

    2. Biskit Boy (@sean-p-newmanlive-co-uk)
      24th August 2020, 18:44

      I love Indycars, so I hate to say this but, the additional 10 years is because its not the highest level.

      As far as the last few laps are concerned, Scott knew Taku would sooner crash than give up the place, so with his championship in mind he took the points.

      1. See my post below, but essentially I think you’re wrong unless you’re talking about Tony Kanaan and have had the misfortune of driving for AJ Foyt’s team when they’ve been nowhere.

        As for Taku, definitely disagree. He’s definitely not the driver he was in his early F1 days and was as good yesterday as he was in 2017. That and he’s taken 3 wins between both 500 wins on merit, not luck. He’s the worst example you could have picked as his form is definitely better than when he was driving for Foyt, bar the 2 race spell where he won at Long Beach and lost the following race in Sao Paulo on the final corner to James Hinchliffe.

        1. Biskit Boy (@sean-p-newmanlive-co-uk)
          25th August 2020, 7:51

          The only reason I mentioned Sato was in relation to the race and what happened in the last few laps. I wasn’t using him as a specific example. I agree with your assessment of his changing form.

          As for the point made by Patrick that in general drivers are able to continue 10 years longer in Indycars I stand by my comment. The standard is lower than formula one. Its not by that much in terms of lap time, but enough to make a sizable difference when it comes to a drivers age.

    3. With the field so packed together with small margins normally and with alot of wheel to wheel racing, experience seems to pay of more than what it does in F1 to get to the top. There are young drivers of course, but it seems there are many quirks an challenges which makes experience worth it, so it takes time for most of them to get up to speed.

      1. This, with a qualifier that it tends to apply more to European and other non-American drivers. Alex Palou’s crash is a classic example of a rookie mistake where experience may well have helped (also, JR Hilderbrand’s last corner crash back in 2011 when he was a rookie while lapping a slower car).

        I’ll use my limited Skydiving experience as a reasonable analogy. With less experience you have a bigger parachute (canopy) as its horizontal speed is slower (20mph vs 40-50 mph) as is vertical descent, so the longer it takes to get to the ground. I have 70 jumps so would definitely qualify as inexperienced, so the canopies I jump give me around 4-5 minutes from deploying before I get to the ground. For anyone with 1000+ jumps and the smallest canopies they can fly, they get 90 seconds. In both cases the decision making is the same but you get less time on a smaller canopy to make those decisions – which is where experience makes a massive difference as you can make those decisions way faster than when you’re at my level and need more time to make the same judgement calls.

        It’s the same in Indycar and especially at the 500 – keep in mind the average race speeds at Indy of 210+mph vs an F1 top speed of around 235mph at Monza but averaging around 160mph. It’s a race where theres millimetres difference between driving a corner perfectly and drifting up the track on a one-way meeting with the wall.

        Also, the neck muscles develop far more as you age. I remember a race around 5 years back where they compared the neck muscles of a rookie vs Helio (who was then 40) and there was no contest that Helio’s were far more developed combined with him having a lower pulse. So long as you’re with the right team and have the right engine, driving Indy at 40+ is far from a disadvantage.

        That’s not to say a rookie can’t win but there’s a reason that it’s only happened twice in the last 20 years. Helio’s 1st 500 win was with 4 years of CART experience and 8x 500 mile races at Michigan and Fontana. And Alex Rossi’s 2016 win came with massive amounts of coaching from Bryan Herta based on the radio transmissions I’ve heard.

    4. Need lightning quick reactions for F1 and metronomic application.

  2. Pat Ruadh (@fullcoursecaution)
    24th August 2020, 16:29

    If it had stayed green Sato likely would have won it anyway. If they had red flagged it who knows? So probably fair enough in the end that they didn’t.

  3. I have to be honest and say that I didnt enjoy that race at all. I’ve only watched the 2017 indy500 live, others only as reruns on YouTube. However it didn’t feel good this year. During f1 races the camera angles don’t really show tje grandstands as much and seeing the stands empty made this race feel wrong, also I never had a bad feeling about the halo but this aeroscreen feels wrong for me, I appreciate how much safer indycar is now but it feels very much like a closed cockpit now whereas the halo still seems like an open car. Also there was only 2 incidents of cars tapping eachother, there seemed to be multiple cautions from driver error, that was a shame and made me feel like strategies were decided by other drivers mistakes.

  4. @broke84 More or less my response to IndyCar. Aside from the fact I like the internationalism of Formula 1 – teams and especially venues and the global following – the different philosophies make watching IndyCar a fairly tedious experience for me. It seems to be about maintaining momentum in a ‘fast car’, while Formula 1 is all about how to do a lap (of a circuit with different corners) as fast as possible. Which is quite a different idea: rapid braking, rapid acceleration, big HP, complex aerodynamics, and, I think, much more asked of the driver’s ability and stamina.

    1. In a normal non-pandemic year IndyCar runs a schedule that consists of 2/3’s road & street courses and 1/3 oval races. Unlike F1, the cars have no power steering and are extremely physical to drive. On some ovals the drivers sustain almost constant loading of 4G’s. IndyCar and F1 cars are both very physical to drive, but IndyCar requires more upper body strength because of the lack of power steering. Marcus Ericsson has discussed this about his training regiment.

      1. Thanks Bill, that makes sense! I really need to watch more, I suspect the Indy500 isn’t actually the ideal race to appreciate IndyCar’s own merits.

        1. I watch indy car from time to time, I dont bother with the 500 tough, theres many more at more interesting tracks with alot of wheel to wheel racing.

  5. Biskit Boy (@sean-p-newmanlive-co-uk)
    24th August 2020, 18:44

    I love Indycars, so I hate to say this but, the additional 10 years is because its not the highest level.

    As far as the last few laps are concerned, Scott knew Taku would sooner crash than give up the place, so with his championship in mind he took the points.

  6. Probably didn’t need clutch either unlike some never-heard wannabe motorsport heroes…

  7. Once again, an improvement for the safety of IndyCar. IndyCar did a phenomenal job with the Aeroscreen, we now feel so much protection. I think they’ve done a fantastic job.

    How long until we get them in F1? They offer more protection than the Halo and look so much better. FIA said they would look at advancement in technology. There’s no reason to be competitive about this aspect. The Halo offers no protection from small debris like the Aeroscreen does so here’s to hoping they get it done.

    1. @skipgamer it’s a question of trading one set of compromises for another though, as the Aeroscreen is not without its faults either.

      Performance in wet weather is still an area of research and development for the Aeroscreen right now too, given there have been limited opportunities to test its performance in wet weather. The early tests did have some problems with water leaking into the cockpit through some of the ventilation holes or dripping off the top of the hoop and into the cockpit, for example, though I think they have been working on solving those issues.

      There have also been some reports that ventilation of the cockpit is proving to be more of a problem than first expected with the Aeroscreen too, resulting in cockpit temperatures which are higher than first planned.

      There is also the issue that it is quite a bit heavier than the Halo is – I believe the combined weight of the frame and screen is around 21kg, making it over twice the weight of the Halo device. That does seem to have impacted on the handling balance of the IndyCars slightly, as you are now placing a much larger mass high up on the chassis than you are with the Halo – the larger surface area has also created more noticeable aerodynamic effects, particularly in yaw.

      It’s not a completely perfect alternative either, and one that is still being prototyped – IndyCar have indicated this isn’t a finished product yet, so there’s probably still a couple of years worth of development to go.

  8. The ultimate prize for winning the Indy 500: an exemption from wearing a mask… if only for photos!

  9. Who cares about flags. Dan Wheldon won the race with a rookie crashing on the last lap. At the end of the day Sato won the race and thats a fact you can’t changes.

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