101ST INDIANAPOLIS 500
of one practice day – Takuma had followed
Helio, and kind of learned the line that
Helio would take,” he recalls. “When I was
spotting, five laps to go, I actually thought,
‘He might be a little too early.’
“But he knew what kind of line Helio
would run, so he was able to choose a line
that would protect himself, or prevent Helio
from getting too close. That gave him
enough cushion to defend until the last lap.
“I think he showed a lot of calculation
and strength in his mentality to prove
that he can count back from the final lap
and make it work.”
Sato reiterates that the timing of his
final pass for the lead was calculated.
“It was all part of the plan,” he says.
Roger Yasukawa previously owned two
top- 10 finishes at the Indianapolis 500.
And now, he’s won it – as a spotter.
The former IndyCar racer (ABOVE)
has served as Takuma Sato’s eyes in the
sky ever since the latter’s first oval race
at Kansas in 2010 (aside from 2014,
when outside commitments forced him
to skip a year). He’s now a permanent
part of Sato’s inner racing circle.
“Roger is calm, and he just makes
me so comfortable all the time,” says
Sato. “He’s one of my greatest friends
ever, and to have won the biggest race
in the world with him is just fantastic.”
Yasukawa, for his part, has had a
front-row seat for Sato’s development
from oval rookie to Indy 500 winner.
“In the first year I was giving him
more advice about the lines and stuff
like that,” he says. “Now, he’s more
aware of what’s going on, and based
on our feedback, I think he sees what
rate people are coming, and when he
should just let them go and try to get
them back at a later stage.”
One thing that hasn’t changed?
Sato’s appetite for information.
“Some drivers just like to hear
about cars coming inside or outside
– really minimal communication,”
Yasukawa says. “Takuma likes to know
as much as he can. I feed him with as
much information that’s useful, and he
Yasukawa has been an almost-constant
presence on the roof for Sato since the
latter arrived in IndyCar with KV in 2010.
MINISTER OF INFORMATION
“For five years, I constantly had that
experience from Indy 2012 in the
back of my head”
with Rubens Barrichello when he came
over [to IndyCar], and Takuma is another
step above them [in that regard],” he says.
“The F1 thing gives you the deep
technical background. But Takuma has,
even beyond that, a natural curiosity and
an intellect to absorb all those things.”
The fruits of Sato’s penchant for
information-crunching were evident
with the timing of his final pass on
Castroneves. Conventional wisdom has it
that with the tow effect of the current
generation of IndyCars, you don’t want to
be leading at the Brickyard until there’s
only one lap to go. Any sooner, and you’re
essentially towing the eventual winner
around. Yet Sato made his move with five
laps left on the counter.
If you thought at the time that he went
too early, you’re not alone – Yasukawa
admits that his initial response was the
same, but notes that in retrospect, he
should have seen it coming...
“We actually talked about it at the end
To many observers, Sato’s last lap crash at Indy in 2012 (ABOVE LEFT) was a catastrophic error. But to him,
it was a valuable step towards his 2017 success, while his many fans embraced it as another example of the
all-or-nothing style that helped make him so popular in the first place (TOP, Motegi in his 2010 debut IndyCar
season). Their faith was first rewarded when he won at Long Beach for AJ Foyt Racing in 2013 (ABOVE RIGHT).
PIECES OF THE SATO PUZZLE