Notes & Quotes: Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg
Takuma Sato: No. 14 ABC Supply Honda
Jack Hawksworth: No. 41 ABC Supply Honda
TAKUMA SATO ON:
• Honda Aero kit: “What I like most about the Honda aero kit is that it’s fast! There are so many configurations you can make to achieve the downforce level for various conditions and track characteristics. It’s not an easy to optimize, but I believe the package could be very competitive when we can. And it looks very aggressive and impressive."
• Having a teammate: “It doubled the data we were collecting, and that helped a lot. We can divide different programs in the same track conditions at the same time so we can analyze them back-to-back with quality data. We’re able to move forward faster.”
• Key to his qualifying well at St. Pete: “I just naturally feel good about St. Pete. In 2013, the tire’s characteristic was quite different from the previous year but we were able to find a good balance very quickly and that was why we were quick. Last year, it was a tricky condition from damp track to drying for every segment of qualifying but I was able to commit every timed lap, so it was a quite special moment when we got the Pole. Hopefully we can repeat another front row start!"
• First race in seven months, what must he be aware of? “Well that’s always tough to predict, but it is an exciting moment too. Anything could happen so you just have to be extra cautious but otherwise it’s great to back racing! I just can’t wait to go to the first race.”
• New season ahead of him: “New season, new car and new driver line-up, so there is plenty of excitement. We don’t know how the racing will be with two different aero packages this year, but it looks extremely competitive based on the Open Test so it will be a lot fun! We’re now a two-car team and the ABC Supply team did good preparation over the winter. It will be great challenge, but we are in much better shape than last year. I’m ready and really looking forward to this season.”
JACK HAWKSWORTH ON:
• Biggest change he felt in Honda aero kit vs. Dallara: “We have a lot more downforce than last year which means the braking has improved substantially and the minimum corner speeds are up a little. In terms of set-up there have been some changes in philosophy and this has been a very interesting challenge for the whole team.”
• New aero kit’s effect on driving style: “I don't believe it has changed the driving style too much compared to last year. It's just possible to attack the corner entry a little more.”
• New team working as anticipated? “I think we have a really good set of guys and there is a good chemistry in the team. I'm certainly happy with where the car is at and the potential we have. Of course, there have been some growing pains with expanding to two cars and getting a completely new group of people together, but that's to be expected. I'm sure we are going to go from strength to strength the more time we have.”
• Aside from winning, a successful season opener would be: “A strong qualifying performance to confirm the ABC Supply car’s speed, so I think making the Firestone Fast 6 is a good target. In the race we need to be clean, consistent, and mistake-free on track and in the pits. If we accomplish this, the result will be good.”
• The positives of St. Petersburg: “The track is a lot of fun and pretty technical, especially the middle sector. It's a track I have won at twice in Star Mazda and in Indy Lights so it has always been good to me! Couple that with the great weather and it's certainly one of my favorite events. I also lived in St. Pete during my first year in the States, so I know the city quite well and really enjoy going back there. It's a great place to kick off the season.”
• A.J. Foyt will be watching from his home in Houston this weekend. Foyt is not planning to return to the IndyCar paddock until the Grand Prix of Indianapolis in May. He did take in the team’s first test with the new aero kit March 14th, flying in and out to NOLA Motorsports Park, but has no plans to attend the race at this time. "I want to be sure I'm healed up in time for Indy, that is my goal," said Foyt. This year AJ Foyt Racing will be in its 50th year of operation, making it the longest operating team in the Verizon IndyCar Series...by far!
• “Front Row Sato” Since joining the ABC Supply team, Takuma Sato has qualified on the front row at St. Petersburg. He was second to Scott Dixon in 2013 and he won the pole in tricky track conditions in 2014. He is working to keep that record intact with another strong qualifying run this year.