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IndyCar Season Preview: Takuma Sato

Photo credit: Ned Leone

#15 Mi-Jack Dallara-Honda, Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing

Born: January 28, 1977

Home: Tokyo, Japan

2011 HIGHLIGHTS: Sato made flying gains in 2011 after a tough rookie season in IndyCar. He minimized his on-track mistakes and finished consistently within the top 10, improving to 13th in points from 21st in 2010. He earned his first two career IndyCar poles at Iowa and Edmonton, and had a best finish of fourth at Mid-Ohio.

2011 LOWLIGHTS: Sato finished last at Indianapolis after making contact with the wall early in the race. His only other DNF of the season came at Iowa, where he had won the pole.

SEASON OUTLOOK: Sato will leave KV Racing Technology in 2012 after his former team decided to shed both Lotus (Sato’s sponsor) and Honda (Sato’s factory backer since his Formula One days) in favor of a Chevrolet engine contract. Instead, Sato and Honda have landed at Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing, which has only run limited schedules for the past few seasons. Now, Sato will be looked upon to help the re-established Rahal team, which won the Indianapolis 500 as recently as 2004, regain its form.

Sato isn’t the same driver that had nine DNFs in 17 races in 2010. He put together more respectable runs than disappointments in 2011, and with Honda support behind him in a series that no longer relies on engine parity, he could get some extra support in the horsepower department. If they’ve stuck behind him this long, they’re going to do everything they can to make him succeed in this new era of IndyCar competition. Sato should be a decent mid-pack driver in 2012 with an outside shot at podiums and wins.

– Chris Leone

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