Photo: Richard Dowdy/INDYCAR

Takuma Sato Column: Long Days in Long Beach, Wine and Barber

By Takuma Sato, Driver Columnist

In his third column for Motorsports Tribune, Takuma Sato talks about the tough times trying to tackle the Grand Prix of Long Beach, testing in Texas, unveiling his own brand of wine and having former Formula One opponent Fernando Alonso as a teammate at Andretti Autosport for the 101st Running of the Indianapolis 500.

From Long Beach to Texas

Long Beach was a tough weekend and we were left with a disappointing outcome. There was a little bit of up and down run by us in practice and we didn’t do what we expected in qualifying. However, race pace. It looked like we had a top 10 finish in our sights, but then we had a sudden power loss and then we had to park the car. It’s a disappointing result for us.

Wednesday we tested at Texas Motor Speedway, primarily to decide what is the best downforce package for the race in June. There is new pavement and a new reconfiguration in Turns 1 and 2, so it’s a different track now, but still fast. We tried several different things. Overall though, it still looks like the Texas we are used to, but now it is up to INDYCAR to decide what package we will have – if they take too much downforce off it will spread the field out, but if they add too much on it will create pack racing. Finding the right balance is difficult because it also depends on the weather and track conditions as well.

I’m very excited for the race there on June 10. The track seems to have a lot of grip and the tire degradation is very small, so it looks like a great race there is possible. Texas hasn’t always been kind to me in the past, but I feel strong with my No. 26 Andretti Autosport team heading there this year.

We had a productive test at Barber a few weeks ago, so I feel really positive about this weekend’s Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama. With Long Beach being so tough on the team, it’s important to have a strong run in Barber.

Welcome Fernando!

Fernando is one of my old good friends. Of course, we shared in a lot of times during our Formula One days together. The announcement really caught me by surprise, but I think it is safe to say it was a good one. For him to come over during the F1 season to run our Indianapolis 500 and miss the Monaco Grand Prix is a very big thing. I’m excited to see him join the team and call him a teammate as we get ready for the month of May. We have plenty of time to practice then, and I am sure he will be up to speed before the race. I am really looking forward to working with him.

Back in the day we had a lot of driver cross over, like F1 to IndyCar and then sports cars for 24 hour races. I wish we still did that, but obligations and contracts make things a lot tougher now days. That said, the situation is very unique and I think it is great for the sport, and motorsports in general. It is going to be great to see all of the F1 fans tuning into the Indy 500 and raise the international interest even more. Hopefully, it will give us a good boost for the sport.

Winning and Wine, What a Combination

I was very pleased to be able to announce my wine – TS Wine – at Long Beach. I wanted to make some significant wine to celebrate my win there in 2013. We had some great support from Meadowcroft Wines, who also help with Foyt’s wine establishment. We began our great relationship back when I raced with A.J. Foyt’s team. The goal is for it to be the best Cabernet Sauvignon that anyone has the pleasure of enjoying. The grapes for the wine come from 2013, which was said to be really rich and strong. So the combination of my victory and great grapes to develop a unique wine coming from the same year just seemed like something we should do. So through a careful process we have come up with 600 bottles, which are housed in the Foyt Wine Vault in Speedway, Indiana. Hopefully, we can get some more wins and possibly add to this collection!

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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.