Sato signs with Rahal-Letterman Racing UPDATE
In evaluating the numerous prospects campaigning for a seat in the Rahal Letterman Lanigan Honda-powered Indy car for the 2012 season, the Indianapolis-based team was searching for the right balance of speed, success and experience to lead it into the new era of IZOD IndyCar Series competition.
With his glittering Formula 1 resume and strong recent results demonstrating his continuing climb up the IndyCar Series grid, Takuma Sato proved to have all of the tools for the job, as the team named the Japanese veteran to pilot the team’s #15 Dallara/Honda/Firestone - one of its two Indy cars in 2012.
Sato, who made 91 starts over seven seasons in F1, joins RLL after making great strides in IndyCar in 2011. A two-time IndyCar Series polesitter last year, Sato looks to build on a successful sophomore season that saw him earn three top-five finishes, seven top-10s and lead 61 laps on his way to a 13th-place finish in the point standings.
“RLL is extremely pleased to welcome Takuma to our IndyCar Series team for 2012, and we anticipate having a very strong season together,” said team co-owner Bobby Rahal. “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 that he can do that, and 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.”
Takuma made his Indy car debut in 2010 and made great improvements in 2011, gaining speed and positions as he visited the circuits of the series for the second time. In 2011 the IZOD IndyCar Series competed on 11 tracks that were also on the 2010 schedule, and Sato improved his finish from 2010 on seven of those circuits.
"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."
RLL returns to full-time IZOD IndyCar Series competition in 2012 for the first time since 2008. That season saw Ryan Hunter-Reay finish seventh in the final series standings, marking the 11th consecutive year that a RLL driver finished the year in the top-10 in driver points. The winners of the 1992 IndyCar championship as well as the 2004 Indianapolis 500, RLL Indy cars have finished in the top 10 in more than half of its 587 career series starts.
The RLL squad is currently readying the car for its first preseason tests and expects to participate in the IndyCar Series open testing at Sebring in March. The team is also finalizing its plans for a second car and intends to have it ready for preseason testing as well. The final sponsor and driver lineup for 2012 will be announced in the near future. RLL PR02/03/12 Japanese driver Takuma Sato has signed a deal with IndyCar team Rahal-Letterman Racing, Honda Motorsports announced on Friday.
"Rahal-Letterman Racing has a proud tradition and I look forward to driving for them," Sato said at a press conference. "I wasn't able to get a win last season but look forward to winning this year with this new team."
Sato competed in Formula One from 2002 to 2008 before moving to IndyCar in 2010 when he drove for KV Racing.
Sato is winless in IndyCar but claimed pole position at races in Edmonton and Iowa last season before finishing in 13th place in the championship standings.
Team owner Bobby Rahal has teamed with Honda as he tries to return to a full-time IndyCar schedule for the first time since 2008.
The team focused on the ALMS Series the last three seasons and ran only four IndyCar races last year. Rahal won the ALMS championship the past two years.
"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 that he can do that," team co-owner Bobby Rahal said in a statement. "We expect to have a great opportunity to win races this year."
The team is also finalizing its plans for a second car and intends to have it ready for preseason testing.