Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing head into the 2018 Verizon IndyCar Series season finale Grand Prix of Sonoma full of momentum following Takuma Sato’s winclast time out in Portland.
Speaking about the challenge of Sonoma, Sato said:
“It’s a very challenging track in terms of engineering because there are many corners that could conflict with each other for best performance so it is always tough to find a good compromise point. It’s very challenging for drivers too with high speeds and a few blind corners which make it a lot fun but you definitely need a good commitment! I always enjoy coming back to Sonoma but at the same time, it’s very difficult to predict because track is actually quite slippery. Usually the tire compounds are very soft which means it has a high degradation so to get the balance right is very tough and race performance really depends on that. But, having said that, it will be the last chance to get a strong result so we want to have a good race. Sonoma is going to be a big weekend for everyone. We will focus on being at a high competitive level. If we could finish strong then the overall standing should raise too. I want to have a good race. It’s been a tough season for the team but we always fought back strong and at the mid-season point, to rate the season we were very strong despite some unlucky moments. Highlights of the season were podiums at Iowa and Portland but there were many races we felt we had some good potential.”
Speaking about his momentum heading into the weekend, Sato said:
There is always high motivation for any race weekend but winning is such a special moment and the boys (crew) and engineers should really feel proud and positive. I certainly hope the win provides extra motivation! It definitely gave us good momentum for Sonoma for sure. An off weekend after a win is very good! I enjoyed the moment.”
Speaking about Sonoma, Rahal said:
Sonoma has always been a tough track for me personally but I have always had good results there. I probably have more top-10’s there than almost anywhere else in my career. It’s an important race with double points on the line. It’s going to be important to have a really solid run there. We can move all the way up to sixth place but we can also move back quite a ways. We’re going to keep our eyes and minds focused forward and try to move up in points. It has been a tough season. I cannot say that I’m pleased with our results but I am pleased with the effort. I have seen a lot of effort and heart from our team and I think that’s going to pay off for us in the long run.”
Speaking about their recent test at Sonom, Rahal said:
The test went okay,” said Rahal. “We tried a lot of different things versus focused specifically on setting a lap time. We didn’t get to run as much as we wanted in the afternoon. We made a lot of big, long changes but the guys did a great job getting through it all. It was a long, tough day for everyone but as we come to a close on the season we really need to try everything we possibly can. We will go back to the drawing board and return to Sonoma for the race with something slightly different. Penske has been the standard there so from a competitive standpoint, I think we will be okay be we need to find a little bit more to end the season strong
Sato spoke about the test saying:
The reason the team chose to test last week rather than a day before race weekend starts was simply to have more time to analyze and gain knowledge for the weekend,” added Sato. “I think test went well although we were not fully happy in terms of lap time but with the new car there was a lot to learn. Certainly we gathered very good data for the day.”
Graham discussed the championship battle saying:
From the championship perspective, however it ends up, there will be a great champion. Someone that is obviously very deserving of the honor,” said Rahal. “Alexander Rossi has had an amazing year and so has Dixie (Scott Dixon) and (Will) Power. It really could be anybody’s championship at the end of this thing.
Speaking about the title, Sato said:
“It will be quite exciting to watch,” added Sato. “I think all the contenders have a chance to win the championship and that shows how competitive INDYCAR was all year. Certainly we want to have the most respect for the championship contenders this weekend but if there is any clean chance then of course we will compete strong (with them). It’s going to be a very exciting weekend.”