101ST INDIANAPOLIS 500
“There are two reasons why I went with
five laps still to go. One, what happens if
there is another yellow? You’re finished.
And two, what if I’d failed to overtake
him? Game over. With five laps in your
pocket, you could actually figure that out:
if I go then and successfully pass Helio,
but he then overtakes me again on the
next lap, or two laps later, I still have three
laps to sort it out, try again.
“I wanted to see how many laps he’d
need to catch up and make an attempt to
go past, and he took two-and-a-half laps.
So with two laps to go, he got into my tow
and made the attempt. At that time, my
brain was spinning at 19,000rpm, just
calculating everything. If I’d defended
my position going into Turn 1, he’d need
another two laps. And of course, that
means checkered flag.
“So, five laps to go was my cut-off line.
And it worked out exactly how I’d
dreamed about it and planned it.”
All of that experience in the bank from
2012 was returned with interest five
years later, as he watched Turn 4 flatten
into the front straightaway for the last time.
“The moment I felt acceleration coming
out of Turn 4...even though my spotter
was saying, “Hustle, hustle, Helio is two
[car lengths] back, one back,” I could
visualize exactly where he was,” Sato
I was sure: we are going to win this race.
“Do I remember the cool-down lap?
Yes. I was screaming! But when I backed
off the throttle and started thanking the
team over the radio, I could actually hear
the cheering from the crowd. That was
amazing, because usually you don’t
hear anything – obviously the engine is
screaming, there’s the buffeting from
the air. I was so happy, so appreciative
of the fans. It was one of the most
significant moments in my life.”
The scale of the appreciation reflected
back upon him quickly became one of the
main post-race storylines. A clip of his win
from the Japanese TV broadcast, complete
with commentators blowing up their
personal rev limiters, quickly went viral.
Closer to home, one of the first faces
he spotted in the throng of well-wishers
when he arrived in Indy’s Victory Lane
was that of his former employer – and
four-time Indy 500 winner – A.J. Foyt.
It resonated so broadly because it was
more than just a win. At the age of 40, a
veteran of 16 years in top-flight racing,
Takuma Sato redefined his entire career
in a single, endlessly-dreamed, minutely-planned and perfectly-executed afternoon.
Sato wins the 101st
Indianapolis 500 by
0.2011sec from Helio
The morning after his
victory, Sato is still
buzzing as he poses
for RACER magazine.
Prior to Indy, Sato’s highest oval finish
had been fifth at Texas with KV in 2011.
His previous Indy 500 best? 13th, twice.
MASTERING THE LEFT TURNS