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Sato Returns To Foyt Racing For 2014 Season

John Sturbin | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Wednesday, December 18 2013

Takuma Sato and the A.J. Foyt Racing team celebrate in Victory Lane at Long Beach. (File photo courtesy of the IZOD IndyCar Series)

By John Sturbin | Senior Writer
RacinToday.com

Takuma Sato will begin his second IndyCar Series season with A.J. Foyt Racing today with a test session at Sebring (Fla.) International Raceway. The team confirmed Tuesday that Sato, 36, will continue to drive Foyt’s No. 14 ABC Supply Dallara/Honda in 2014, the native of Japan’s fifth season in the series.

In 2013, Sato gave team-owner and native Texan Foyt his first victory since 2002 with an impressive performance in the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach, the country’s premier open-wheel street race. Sato’s pole-winning run at the Shell and Pennzoil Grand Prix of Houston was the third of his career and the team’s first P1 start since 1998, when Billy Boat qualified on-pole for the Indianapolis 500.

“It is great news that I will continue to drive with ABC Supply/A.J. Foyt Racing next year,” said Sato, who posted two top-five and four top-10 results in 19 races last season. “We had some great results in our first year. I know what the team is capable of and what I am capable of in the coming season.”

Sato logged a front-row start in his first race for Foyt Racing, the season-opening Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, Fla. Sato led the final 50 laps on the Streets of Long Beach en route to his first career INDYCAR victory, and took over the series point-lead after a

Larry Foyt and driver Takuma Sato will be back together in 2014.

second-place finish in the Itaipava Sao Paulo Indy 300 on the Streets of Sao Paulo, Brazil, in early May. James Hinchcliffe of Andretti Autosport overtook Sato in the final turn of the final lap to win the Brazilian event by 0.3463-seconds, denying “Taku” a second consecutive victory.

Additionally, veteran chief engineer Don Halliday of New Zealand and performance engineer Raul Prados of Spain will remain with the organization led by team director Larry Foyt, A.J.’s son.

“Working with A.J., Larry, Don and all the boys…is just fantastic,” Sato said. “This team is really special for me. I always felt that the team was behind me and it gave me the confidence to go for the win in races. I’m very excited to continue to build this great relationship.

“We know what we need to focus on next year. We are anxious to test the new (twin turbocharged) Honda (V6) engine; from what I hear, the engine will put us in a great position to be up front more often in 2014. I am convinced that we can be a contender in the championship.”

Similarly, Larry Foyt is confident the return of the organization’s core group to Waller, Texas, will allow the team to improve upon its 17th-place point-finish in 2013. “I’m thrilled to have Takuma driving for us again,” Larry Foyt said. “Taku, our engineers and mechanics all gelled quickly last year, and getting to Victory Lane together was something we’re all very proud of. We’re focused on building on the positives from last season and working towards more victories and a higher standing in the championship. I know with Taku’s talent and our race team personnel, these are realistic goals.”

In other team news, A.J. Foyt underwent successful right knee-replacement surgery on Dec. 12. Foyt, 78, spent one night in the hospital and continues to recover. Foyt, first four-time winner of the Indy 500, had his left hip replaced in July and his left knee replaced in 2006.

“Having everyone back next year is a big plus for our team,” the elder Foyt said. “We came out strong but then had some problems midway through the season. We’re making changes so we’ll get stronger as the season goes on, which I believe is the key to being one of the contenders in the title race.”

The 2014 IndyCar season starts the weekend of March 28-30 with the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg kicking off an 18-race schedule.

Distinct aerodynamic configurations will be offered by Chevrolet and Honda for the Dallara IndyCar Series chassis beginning in 2015. As part of its long-range focus on innovation, INDYCAR announced in June that aerodynamic bodywork “kits” would be introduced and utilized for all 2015 races and include separate specifications for superspeedways and road/street/short ovals.

Bodywork components mated to the Dallara rolling chassis will provide INDYCAR a platform for performance and efficiency developments. This is a significant element among technical changes designed to achieve higher speeds.

“Aero kits will improve the diversity of the fan experience and renew technical engagement, while providing a controlled cost structure,” Derrick Walker, president of competition and operations, INDYCAR, said in a statement.

The program is relevant to short- and long-term design and development objectives of the global automotive industry and aligns with research and development in multiple technology sectors. Additionally, an entrant’s aero kits will be aligned with its manufacturer, with the car incorporating the name given by the supplier.

Beginning with 2016, additional engine manufacturers and/or third party vendors will be eligible to become an INDYCAR-approved supplier. Correspondingly, Chevrolet and Honda will be able to upgrade their aero kits, which will be approved through homologation.

“It’s a unique situation in a non-production based series to provide engines and aerodynamic body kits,” said Chris Berube, Chevrolet Racing program manager for IndyCar Series. “This will allow Chevrolet to impact a wider bandwidth of car performance which comes with increased responsibility to our teams to put them in a position to win.”

Roger Griffiths, technical director for Honda Performance Development Inc., said the long-time series partner also is looking forward to introduction of the aero kits. “Along with continuing engine development, aero kits will provide another area for innovation and manufacturer competition,” Griffiths said. “The introduction of bespoke bodywork from Honda and Chevrolet will provide fans with additional brand identification, and that can only help IndyCar racing.”

Examples of areas open for development by INDYCAR-approved aero configuration manufacturers include sidepods, engine cover and oval front wing main plane and end plates. Potential alterations to the car’s undertray in an effort to advance safety also are under consideration. On-track testing will begin Oct. 6, 2014 and close on Jan. 18, 2015. Highlights of the regulations:

_ No entrant may use more than two aero kits during a season. The 2012 Dallara aero kit is approved as one of the aero kits.

_ Dallara will continue to supply a number of standard components that affect aerodynamic performance.

_ For the Indianapolis 500, an entrant may use more than one aero kit during practice sessions. The aero kits utilized in qualifications must be used in the race.

_ Entrants will be charged no more than $75,000 per aero kit by the supplier, inclusive of all components, but excluding fasteners. A 2016 upgrade kit will cost no more than $15,000.

_ Six days of pre-production testing have been approved, with each supplier using a maximum of two cars from entrants. Engine mileage accrued will not count against the entrants’ 10,000-mile-per-year allocation or engine count.

Aerodynamic platforms will complement engine manufacturer competition that returned to the series in 2012 following a six-year period in which Honda was sole supplier. For 2014, both manufacturers will supply consumer-relevant 2.2-liter, twin-turbocharged V6 engines using E85 fuel.

Juan Pablo Montoya, who won his first NASCAR road-course race in 2007 at Sonoma Raceway, returned to the Northern California circuit Monday to test a Team Penske Dallara/Chevrolet in preparation for his transition to open-wheel racing in 2014.

A veteran of Formula One and NASCAR’s Sprint Cup Series, JPM will compete in the IndyCar Series fulltime next season in the No. 2 Team Penske car. And while familiar with Sonoma’s 1.99-mile stock car layout, Montoya logged his first laps around the 2.38-mile configuration used by INDYCAR.

“It’s hard to go to the places where I’ve been in a stock car because my mind is not right,” Montoya said. “My mind says one thing and my foot says another. They don’t agree. You go wide-open through the Esses and my mind is saying, ‘You can do it’ and my foot is saying, ‘No, I’m coming out.’ I just need a little more confidence in the car and seeing what the car can do. You really got to try to build it up.”

Montoya completed about 50 laps with an emphasis on hitting his marks. The team went through three sets of Firestone Firehawk tires and also practiced pit stops. Montoya’s next on-track action will be in mid-January at Sebring along with teammates Helio Castroneves and Will Power.

“I’ve got a lot of success in open wheel, but I’m not trying to talk too much about it,” said Montoya, the 2000 Indy 500 champion while driving for team-owner Chip Ganassi. “Do I want to win every week? Yes, of course I do. But with Will and Helio, I have two really strong teammates, people I can learn from and with time, hopefully we can win.

“I want to win races. It’s a shorter season, the cars are faster, we do street courses, road courses, small ovals, big ovals. It’s going to be a lot fun. It’s a big change. You come from something that you have to lift a lot and slide around a lot but with this you slide around a lot but you’re sliding around about 50 miles per hour faster. There’s not a lot of runoff here so it’s easy to get it wrong. I’m trying to build to it. The transition is going to be tremendous.”

– John Sturbin can be reached at jsturbin@racintoday.com

John Sturbin | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Wednesday, December 18 2013
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