Photo: Shawn Gritzmacher/INDYCAR

Takuma Sato Column: Gearing Up for Long Beach

By Takuma Sato, Driver Columnist

In his second column for Motorsports Tribune, Takuma Sato discusses some of the improvements made by Honda and Andretti Autosport as they prepare for the Grand Prix of Long Beach, and reveals some of the small rigors of what he did over the three-week break between races.

Constantly Improving

I’m really excited to return to Long Beach. To be honest, with no change in the aero package from last year to this year, we knew we were coming into an uphill battle on road and street courses. At superspeedways I think we will have the ideal package, but it’s great. I don’t think many people really predicted and expected the battle to be tighter this year compared to last. That goes to show the hard work that Honda put in over the winter.

Beginning of last year we had a revised new aero package, which nobody was able to optimize at beginning of this season as it arrived just before the season opener. With the engine, we had to carry over the 2015 spec into the 2016 season. So, although the engine wasn’t down on power or anything, it wasn’t updated for the new season at that time. Considering that, I think this year Honda made a lot of commitments to the engine department so we can have the 2017 spec, and we’ve gained experience about this aero package a lot so the depth of understanding level is quite different compared to where we were last year. After all of that hard work we can see the competitiveness paying off after the first race.

I’m extremely pleased about it.

Long Beach is one of the best street courses, it has a great history, very enthusiastic fans and a fantastic atmosphere, so it’s a beautiful venue. Interestingly, the car’s setup is not much different than St. Petersburg, so we expect to be as competitive as we were there. The Andretti team has some good records of Long Beach and, of course, I have a great memory with my win in 2013. A lot of preparation and work is still to be done, but I am very excited to get back there.

Enjoying Some of the Break

I do a lot of traveling back and forth to Japan. Particularly during the offseason, but once everything starts it is much harder to do because of the schedule. However, this last go around since St. Petersburg I spent some time in Europe.

Between testing at Barber, Sebring and Sonoma, simulator work and meetings, everything has kept me busy. The team has been working flat out at the shop as well with a lot of conference calls. So I think  this weekend will be really interesting and an exciting one for us. After Long Beach, our journey still continue as we will go to Texas (Motor Speedway) for test. Then I will get the chance to go back home to Japan for a few days, so that is certainly something I am looking forward to, but before that, I just can’t wait getting back to special Long Beach.

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Takuma Sato pilots the No. 26 Honda for Andretti Autosport in the Verizon IndyCar Series. A veteran of 119 starts heading into 2017, Sato won the 2013 edition of the Grand Prix of Long Beach. The native of Tokyo, Japan, also enjoyed seven seasons in Formula 1 prior to coming over to the United States to compete in the Indianapolis 500.