Takuma Sato first Japanese driver to win IndyCar race
Takuma Sato became the first Japanese driver to win an IndyCar series race on Sunday, delivering a dominant performance to win the Grand Prix of Long Beach.
Sato, who drives the No 14 car for AJ Foyt Racing, led 50 of 80 laps on the 3,167-kilometre Long Beach street circuit and held off American Graham Rahal in a race that ended under caution because of an accident involving Tony Kanaan.
Sato was making his 52nd IndyCar start and his previous best finish was second at Edmonton last year.
He had nearly pulled off an upset in the last year Indianapolis 500 when he battled Dario Franchitti for the lead and the win on the final lap.
Both drivers made contact, with Sato slamming into the outside wall. He finished 17th, while Franchitti won the Indy 500 for the second time.
There were no mistakes from Sato on Sunday.
He started from fourth on the grid and overtook 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 Kanaan slid into a tyre barrier on the first turn of the 79th lap.
England’s Justin Wilson finished third -- after starting 24th.
“Takuma made it look too easy,” said team director and race strategist Larry Foyt. “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.”