Takuma Sato with driver gloves collected for tsunami relief - Anne Proffit photoEnlarge Photo
Former Formula 1 driver Takuma Sato is sticking with his Honda roots, moving from the Chevrolet-based KV Racing Technology team where he's run the past two season to Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing (RLL) to drive the No. 15 Honda/Dallara/Firestone entry in the 2012 IZOD IndyCar Series campaign.
Sato, who made 91 starts in seven F1 seasons, joins RLL after two strong years of learning the different crafts of driving an Indy car. In 2011, he was a two-time polesitter, earning three top-five, seven top-10 results and leading 61 lap laps en route to a 13th-place finish in the point standings.
"RLL is extremely pleased to welcome Takuma to our IndyCar Series team for 2012," said team co-owner Bobby Rahal," and we anticipate having a very strong season together. While we were determined to have an experienced driver for this season, we also needed someone that knew how to get to the front and Takuma has shown he can do that.
"We expect to have a great opportunity to win races this year. He has made great strides through the last two seasons in INDYCAR and I have no doubt that we can produce a strong effort with him leading the team," Rahal stated.
While both of his two previous years have been filled with a heavy case of crash-itis, Sato appears to have matured as an Indy car driver. In 2011 the series competed on 11 tracks that had also been on the prior year's schedule and Sato improved his finish on those tracks seven times.
"I'm very proud, motivated and excited to be chosen by Bobby to join his big project," Sato said. "This team, I feel, has got huge potential. Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing has got a great history and record of winning, so my motivation is ever so high and I am extremely thrilled to start the new season. With a new car for everybody, I am confident that we'll be up to speed very quickly."
Since 2008, RLL has been a part-time entrant in the IZOD IndyCar Series; it returns to full-time status this year. In 2008, Ryan Hunter-Reay finished seventh for the team in the final season standings, marking the 11th straight season for an RLL driver in the top-10. The team won the 1992 championship as well as the 2004 Indianapolis 500.
The Rahal Letterman Lanigan team is currently readying Sato's car for its first pre-season tests and expects to participate in open testing at Sebring in March. RLL is also finalizing plans for its second entry and intends to have it ready for testing as well. The team stated its final sponsor and driver lineup for the 2012 season will be announced in the near future.