BROWNSBURG, Ind. – Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing has come to the defense of driver Takuma Sato following the opening lap crash in Sunday’s NTT IndyCar Series event at Pocono Raceway.
Sato was one of five drivers involved in an opening lap crash, which was triggered following contact between Sato and Alexander Rossi when Sato appeared to try and cut in front of Rossi as they raced three-wide with Ryan Hunter-Reay towards turn two.
The crash also included Hunter-Reay, James Hinchcliffe and Felix Rosenqvist, with Rosenqvist being taken to a local hospital for further checkups before being released.
Sato, the 2017 Indianapolis 500 winner, has been the subject of harsh criticism following the crash, with Rossi laying the blame for the crash squarely on Sato’s shoulders.
“I can’t even begin to understand how after last year, how Takuma Sato thinks any sort of driving like that is acceptable,” Rossi said. “To turn across two cars at that speed in that corner at the start of a 500-mile race is disgraceful, upsetting and probably cost us a championship.
“It’s upsetting because this team works hard. We’ve got a couple of days to rebound and we’ll just go for wins from this point on.”
On Tuesday, in response to the criticism of Sato, Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing issued a lengthy statement defending their driver. The team indicated in the statement that onboard telemetry proved Sato did not turn down on Rossi to cause the crash.
“Following the events on lap one of Sunday’s IndyCar race at Pocono Raceway, we are relieved that all drivers emerged unhurt from the crash. Normally in a situation of this nature it is not necessary for a team to comment but following the accusations levied at Takuma, and after reviewing Takuma’s onboard data and camera, we feel that a clarification is necessary,” the team statement read. “The data and video clearly shows that Takuma did not turn down the track into Alexander in this incident and in fact the first steering wheel movement made by Takuma was to the right, as he tried to correct his car after the initial contact.
“This sort of accident is part and parcel of this type of racing and with track position being vital at every stage of each race is, in our view, a part of the sport. It’s a racing incident and we as a team wish to publicly state that we stand behind our drivers and have absolute faith in their ability to race and perform at the highest level for RLL.
“This was a racing incident which unfortunately may have some championship implications. A crash at Pocono impacted our title aspirations in 2015 while second in the standings so we know the frustration drivers and teams experienced. As always, we are thankful for the quick response of the AMR Safety Team.”