“Indeed, I’m honored to be the first one to win, but not because of me, it’s everyone else,” Sato said. “A lot of Japanese drivers started in history, not only me. Those people really opened the door to me. When I arrived at Indy, it was good surprise really. It just a different series, but it’s so competitive. Good variety with street course, road course, oval, big Indianapolis 500, but short ovals. You have to be very consistent, to have a good team, to understand everything.
“It’s been three and a half years to get here, but I always believed I can challenge. Basically I just try keep on going and really appreciate that finally I’m learning what I wanted to.”
Sato arrived in IndyCar with tremendous fanfare after he left Formula One because he was considered the most competitive Japanese driver to enter IndyCar. But it was a driver from Brazil that Sato idolized.
“My hero was Ayrton Senna,” Sato said of the Formula One great. “The first time I saw racing was when I was 10 years old, the Japanese Grand Prix at Suzuka in 1987. That day Senna started from seventh and came up to second. It was really stunning. Obviously Saturo Nakajima was a pioneer for the Japanese drivers. But I also liked Ukyo Katayama, and Aguri Suzuki, who was my boss. I really liked Ukyo’s style.”
Sato’s victory should also come as great news in his home country considering the disastrous earthquake and Tsunami that led to the Nuclear accident at a nuclear power plant in Fukushima on March 11, 2011.
“I think it’s great news from sporting point of view for the Japanese all over the world competing,” Sato said. “Any win is really great news for us, particularly that we had such a tragedy for the earthquake, we had such a difficulty. People still on the way back and 300,000 people still don’t have a home, have temporary living. This hopefully is a good news to cheer them up and hopefully, yes, this is just a start, and to bring more IndyCar excitement and enthusiasm to Japanese fans to know it.
“Motor racing people already know IndyCar is special. As you know, Formula One and IndyCar, Japan, it’s a big sport. Unfortunately we don’t have Indy in Japan, but hopefully this is a little start to recover and not so long time I’d love to go back to Japan with the series.”