By Aaron Bearden, Open Wheel Editor
DETROIT — The weather forecast for Sunday’s Race 2 of the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix looks like it could be difficult to predict.
Takuma Sato is hoping for rain.
“Yeah, I hope (it rains),” Sato told Motorsports Tribune. “As long as we’re keeping things safe for everyone else, I think the condition changes are always interesting for the competitors and spectators. Hopefully we can enjoy a great afternoon tomorrow.”
Sato delivered his best performance of 2018 for Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing in Saturday’s first race at Belle Isle Park, qualifying seventh and rising two positions to claim fifth at race’s end. The result was the Japanese star’s first top five since Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in July 2017.
The run elevated Sato to 12th in the championship standings, matching the highest mark he’s reached since his move to Rahal from Andretti Autosport at the end of 2017. But while Sato’s year-best result put him in the best position he’s seen this year, it also reminded the 41-year-old of wasted promise from earlier in the season.
“Under the difficult circumstances, I think we did a good job,” he said. “Honestly it’s a surprise that this is the best result of our season. We’ve been running much higher a lot of times this season, but we just had some unfortunate things.
“The team did a great job. Hopefully we can transfer it into something positive for tomorrow.”
One year removed from an Indianapolis 500 triumph, Sato entered the Month of May hopeful that he could repeat his Brickyard triumph after scoring two top 10s in the races prior. But Indianapolis Motor Speedway wasn’t kind to the former Formula One driver in his championship defense.
Sato ended the Indy 500 in 32nd after an early crash, killing the momentum he’d built and dropping him to 16th in the championship standings at the time.
Saturday’s run in Belle Isle wasn’t enough to undo Sato’s Indy damage, but it helped his No. 30 team move on and refocus on the season at large with the summer slate approaching.
“The Month of May was very unfortunate for all of us, but I think we need to move on,” he said. “We are quite a lot of points behind, but hopefully this weekend continues to be the one where we turn it around, and hopefully in the second half of the season we can show good performance again.”
His best result of the year managed, Sato will set his sights on Sunday’s second 70-lap race in Belle Isle. The two-time winner will try to improve to the podium – a feat that should prove challenging, but feasible.
Especially if there’s rain.
“It’s tough, obviously. Very tough,” Sato said. “I think the top three today were very strong. We need to get a really good qualifying run tomorrow morning.
“Weather-wise it’s a little bit tricky tomorrow. If it’s raining, by all means then, I’ll love it. We’ll see what happens.”