x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 January 2018

Takuma Sato makes history after becoming first Japanese driver to win IndyCar race

The former Formula 1 racer hailed his AJ Foyt team after claiming an impressive victory at the Long Beach Grand Prix.

IndyCar driver Takuma Sato celebrates his victory for AJ Foyt Racing at the Long Beach Grand Prix.
IndyCar driver Takuma Sato celebrates his victory for AJ Foyt Racing at the Long Beach Grand Prix.

Takuma Sato made IndyCar history last night after becoming the first Japanese driver to win a race in the US series.

The 36-year-old, who switched to IndyCar after leaving F1 in 2009, led for 50 of the 80 laps at the Long Beach Grand Prix to drive himself into the record books.

"This is just amazing," Sato said afterwards.

"It was just a perfect weekend to be honest. The team did a tremendous job. Pit stops, right calls, the power was great, and I was comfortable in the car and able to push everything."

The result puts him into second place in the championship standings, six points behind Brazilian Helio Castroneves.

Sato, who drives for the A.J. Foyt Enterprises team, was making his 52nd IndyCar start.

His previous best finish was second at Edmonton in 2012, driving for Rahal Letterman - the car that runner-up Graham Rahal now drives.

He had nearly pulled off an upset in the 2012 Indianapolis 500 when he battled Dario Franchitti for the lead and the win on the final lap, before the drivers made contact and Sato hit an outside wall, ultimately finishing 17th.

There were no mistakes last night as the Tokyo-born driver started from fourth on the grid, overtaking Ryan Hunter-Reay for second place on lap 23.

He assumed the lead on lap 30, when race leader Will Power of Australia pitted under a caution.

From there, Sato held off all challengers and led Rahal across the finish line under caution after Brazil's Tony Kanaan slid into a tyre barrier on the first turn of the 79th lap.

England's Justin Wilson finished third — after starting 24th.

"It is great news for the Japanese," said Sato.

"Japan has had such a tough time after the earthquake (March 2011). I'm really happy to give everybody some good news to wake up to because it's very early Japanese time."

"Takuma made it look too easy," said Larry Foyt, team director and race strategist.

"It made me so nervous watching it out there. He just drove a flawless race. I've never seen a race like that. Just a perfect race. It just all came together."

Sato became the third different driver to win in as many races this season, joining Canadian James Hinchcliffe and Hunter-Reay.

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