In the final IndyCar event in Japan hometown hero Takuma Sato finished 10th in the Indy Japan The Final at Twin Ring Motegi in Motegi, Tochigi, Japan. Teammates Tony Kanaan and E. J. Viso placed 17th and 21st respectively.
The race was contested on the 2.983-mile, 14-turn TRM permanent road course for the first time following eight events on the Twin Ring Motegi oval beginning in 2003.
Sato, No. 5 KV Racing Technology – Lotus, who was competing in an IndyCar race in his homeland for the second time, started a team-high 11th. He overcame an incident early in the race and battled his way into seventh place when on a restart he and teammate Viso made contact. Both drivers were able to continue with Sato finishing 10th. Sato made his Motegi IndyCar debut last year and had his best oval performance of the season qualifying 10th and finishing 12th.
“Obviously it was a very disappointing end to the race. However, looking at the bigger picture, it was a fantastic event. The competition was very tough and we had a difficult weekend. In the race, yes I had a few dramas, but we fought the whole race. The fan support was unbelievable. It was a great great event and I want to say a big thank you to all the fans, all the people who made all this happen. I also want to thank the team for their fantastic support.”
Sato, 34, earned 20 points today and now 14th in the standings with 282 points. The Japanese star has finished in the top-10 seven times this year including his first three IndyCar top-five finishes (career-high fourth at Mid-Ohio, fifths at St. Petersburg and Texas). He has also earned his first two IndyCar poles (Iowa, oval and Edmonton, street circuit) becoming the first Japanese driver to do this and led his first IndyCar race (Brazil) and subsequently three others. Three of his top-10 finishes, two of his top-fives and one pole have come on road/street events.
Kanaan, No. 82 GEICO – KV Racing Technology – Lotus, for the second race in a row started on the last row. The team went with an alternative fuel strategy, however at exactly the wrong moment a caution flag came out negating the strategy. Kanaan continued to battle throughout the contest and during the closing laps several drivers made crucial mistakes moving Kanaan into 17th place. This was Kanaan’s 14th start at Motegi. In 13 oval events here (five in the CART Series and eight in the IndyCar Series) he finished in the top-10 nine times with five top-five showings, four podiums and a win in 2007.
“It was a very tough race and our strategy didn’t play the way we expected,” Kanaan said. “Starting from the back you got to take some chances in order to move forward but this time it just didn’t work out as expected, but I’m glad that we still maintained our 5th spot in the championship. I’m sad that this was our last race in Japan, I’ll really miss this place.”
Kanaan scored 13 points today and is fifth in the championship race with 353 points. The 36-year-old Brazilian leads KVRT – Lotus with nine top-10 finishes including seven top-five showings and three podiums (second at Iowa, thirds at St. Petersburg and Baltimore). Kanaan has not qualified well on the road/street circuits starting in the top-10 just twice in 10 events this year, but he has been extremely competitive in the races finishing in the top-10 six times including four top-five finishes and two podiums.
Viso, No. 59 PDVSA – KV Racing Technology – Lotus, started 13th. He drove a strong race, took advantage of other driver’s mistakes and passed a couple cars to move into sixth place. However, when the restart and contact with Sato occurred he dropped to 21st place.
Viso contested his third race at Motegi. In two previous oval events, (2009 and 2010), he finished 15th both times.
Viso picked up 12 points today and is 18th in the standings with 229 points. The 26-year-old Venezuelan has finished in the top-10 four times this year, twice on ovals, a season-high seventh in race one at Texas and 10th in the second plus road-course season-high ninths at Toronto and Sonoma. His career best finish on a road/street course is fourth at St. Petersburg in 2008 (overall career-high, third in Iowa). Viso has had competitive races on the road/street circuits this year. However, his efforts have been stymied by a string of what can only be described as bad luck.
KVRT – Lotus has had some of their best results this season on tracks that require drivers to turn right as well as left and earning 12 top-10 finishes with six top-five showings in 10 road/street events.
Next up for KVRT – Lotus is the Kentucky Indy 300, October 1-2, at Kentucky Speedway in Sparta, Kentucky. The race will be broadcast live on Versus at 2:00 p.m. ET.