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Takuma Sato © Gallo Images

Sato excited about new Indy machine

Japanese driver Takuma Sato is excited by what he's seen so far from IndyCar's new chassis, and looking forward to launching the season with his new Rahal, Letterman, Lanigan team.

"It's one of the exciting things, that we have an absolutely brand new car," Sato said on a conference call Wednesday to discuss his recently announced 2012 role.

The chassis designed by Dallara for use in IndyCar this season is called the DW12 in honour of British driver Dan Wheldon. Wheldon died of injuries received in a massive crash at the IndyCar season finale in Las Vegas last October.

Wheldon, who didn't have a fulltime ride last season, did much of the testing for the new design, and Sato said it seems to be a winner.

"Basically all areas were improved from last year's Dallara chassis," he said. "There was more downforce. It's more precise with the feel of the car. I've got more grip as well... With the new carbon brake there seems to be very consistent stopping power.

"Working with the engineering side... whatever we changed, it seems to be clearly responding very well," he added. "So that was an exciting thing, too."

Sato, who drove in Formula One for seven years and has driven for two seasons now in IndyCar, said he hasn't yet spent a lot of time in the new machine.

He'll have the opportunity to do more testing before the 15-race season begins on March 25 with the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg in Florida.

RLL is planning a full IndyCar campaign this season for the first time since 2008.

Team owner Bobby Rahal said he remembered Sato from the driver's Formula Three days in Europe, back in 2001 when Rahal was working with Jaguar in Formula One.

"We all look forward to having him with us because he's shown his pace over the last couple of years in IndyCars," Rahal said. "As I said when we re-entered IndyCar racing, it was important for us to do so with someone who was going to be competitive. Certainly Taku fits that bill."

Sato drove for KV Racing Technology in his first two IndyCar seasons.

Last year he claimed pole positions at Iowa and Edmonton> he notched three top-five finishes but is still seeking a first IndyCar win.

The team will also be working with Japanese engine manufaturer Honda, another familiar fit for Sato.

He said tests with Honda in December were "extremely enjoyable".

"And it gave me big confidence that we would be very competitive," he said.


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