Race Report: Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach

LONG BEACH, Calif. April 13, 2014—The Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach had all the makings of a Cinderella story for Takuma Sato and the ABC Supply team.

A disappointing qualifying run, a collision on the opening lap which dropped Sato from 15th to 20th, and an early pit stop to replace the damaged nose assembly all combined to make his chances of success look slim. By lap seven of the 80-lap event, he was running last and a lap down to the top three leaders.

Sato and the ABC Supply team battled back. Good strategy and even better pit stops (their final one was a cool 7.45 seconds) and they were on their way to a top-10 finish in the ABC Supply Honda. But a lap and four turns later is when the glass slipper turned out not to fit.

After a round of green flag pit stops, pole sitter Ryan Hunter-Reay, who had led 51 laps before the pit stop cycle began, came up on Josef Newgarden in Turn 3. Newgarden, who had moved into third on lap 32, ran there behind Hunter-Reay and James Hinchcliffe until pitting on lap 55. Exiting the pits on cold tires ahead of Hunter-Reay, Newgarden and Hunter-Reay made contact entering  Turn 4 and Hinchcliffe piled in with no place to go. Although a couple cars sliced their way through, Sato was close on the heels of Carlos Munoz who barely missed the carnage. Sato nearly squeezed through but clipped Newgarden’s car and the impact tore off the left front suspension of the No. 14.

“Unfortunately, when I turned into Turn 4 there were three cars tangled together and it was in the middle of the racing line and the middle of the track. I couldn't avoid it. I clipped the 67 car and that was the end of our race. A very disappointing finish and we could have finished very high, but I hope we can transport the positives to the next round,” Sato said. 

QUALIFYING REPORT – Long Beach Grand Prix

LONG BEACH, Calif. April 12, 2014—This year’s qualifying round for the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach was surprising as quite a few faces are in unfamiliar places. Takuma Sato will start 15th in the No. 14 ABC Supply Honda tomorrow.

Sato will be starting directly behind Tony Kanaan and Will Power, and alongside of Juan Pablo Montoya, all of whom failed to transfer out of the first round of qualifying.

“Tough qualifying session,” said Sato. “We made progress over the two days but just not enough. It’s quite a mixture of a grid so whether it was conditions or not, I don’t know. We tried our best but not going through the Q-1 qualifying round was disappointing. We shall work hard for final practice and hopefully we will have a strong package for the race.”

Sato’s two quickest laps were taken away when race officials decided he interfered with Ryan Hunter-Reay’s qualifying run in the first round. Sato explained, “We  both started on blacks [tires], but I pitted a lap earlier for the red tires. After warming up on my red tires, I was just starting my qualifying lap and he was on charge finishing his lap on blacks. Unfortunately we came close in the very last sector where the timing line is. I didn’t feel it would affect him on his lap time but they decided to penalize me.”

The penalty did not affect his starting position.

Hunter-Reay advanced through both rounds to win the Verizon P-1 Pole Award. Teammate James Hinchcliffe shares the front row. Sebastian Bourdais, Josef Newgarden, Jacks Hawksworth and Simon Pagenaud rounded out the Firestone Fast Six.

The ABC Supply team has a final warm-up session tomorrow morning. The 80-lap race will be televised live on NBC Sports Network starting at 4:00 p.m. ET.