Takuma Sato has a new home. The Japanese driver is joining Andretti Autosport in 2017, driving the No. 26 Honda.
With AJ Foyt’s team moving to Chevrolet next year, the Honda favorite will join a lineup at Andretti with Indy 500 winners Ryan Hunter-Reay and Alexander Rossi, as well as Marco Andretti. Sato himself came close to victory at Indianapolis, crashing in an attempt to take the lead on the final lap of the 2012 race.
Sato has started 118 races during his Verizon IndyCar Series career, with his lone win coming at Long Beach in 2013 with Foyt. He has just four other podium finishes, to go along with five poles. He has never finished in the top 12 in the championship, but now has a car that has proven to be strong.
Takuma’s manager Steve Fusek spoke to the other new additions that Andretti has made over the off-season. “I think Michael has done a really good job already in this off-season to address their weaknesses. Jeremy Milless (Rossi’s race engineer) is no small hire, and Eric Bretzman (previously with Scott Dixon) is a great hire too.”
Garrett Mothersead engineered Sato when he was at KV Racing, and will rejoin him at Andretti.
“I am extremely excited that we were able to work out a deal with Michael and Andretti Autosport,” Sato said. “With Honda an integral part of Andretti Autosport, it seemed like a great fit. The team has proven year after year that they are ultra competitive on all types of circuits. Particularly the speed that team has shown in recent years at the Indy 500 were just incredible. I am also very impressed on how aggressively they have addressed their needs for 2017, and am really looking forward to working with my new environment and can’t wait to get started.”
Despite the monumental win at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway last season, it was a dismal year for the Andretti team. The aero kits will remain unchanged from this past year, but the team has been very pleased with their tests over the last few months. Having Chip Ganassi’s team back with the Japanese manufacturer should also help going forward.
Sato himself had arguably his worst career season this past year. He finished 17th in the standings, with 0 top-five finishes, and 0 laps led. The knock on Sato for most of his career has been his inability to finish races. He had just three DNFs last season, which was an improvement. From 2012-2015, he had a total of 25 races that he failed to finish.
They are big shoes to fill, especially for a driver who turns 40 next month, but Sato is confident that he will be able to produce results for Michael Andretti’s team. The first race on the 2017 Verizon IndyCar Series schedule will take place on the streets of St. Petersburg, on March 12.