(A version of this story originally appeared as exclusive content on the Verizon INDYCAR Mobile app.)
The Borg-Warner Trophy is “Back Home Again in Indiana” after its first international trip. The iconic 81-year-old prize created lasting memories on its two-week journey to Japan to commemorate Takuma Sato as the first driver from the country to win the Indianapolis 500.
In what can only be described as an amazing tour, the trophy featuring the likeness of every Indy 500 winner shared center stage with Sato, a national hero for his racing achievement.
The lasting images from the Borg-Warner Trophy’s trip will be the looks on the faces of those who saw the impressive Indianapolis 500 winner’s trophy for the first time. From the wide-eyed amazement of young girls to the looks of wonder from adults. (Check the gallery of photos below.)
Formula One driver Jenson Button was impressed as he gazed at arguably the most famous trophy in all of international racing and one of the most iconic trophies in sports. That came when Button was among the many drivers who appeared at Honda’s “THANKS DAY” at Twin Ring Motegi. It was further evidence that the Borg-Warner Trophy’s trip was a success not only for the company whose name it bears, but also for Honda, INDYCAR and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
“If the faces on the Borg-Warner Trophy could talk, they would shout, ‘Thank you, Japan!’” said Scott Gallett, vice president of marketing for BorgWarner. “Takuma Sato’s enthusiasm and the fans’ appreciation was overflowing during the entire trip.
“The peoples’ reaction to seeing the Borg-Warner Trophy in person was something I’ll never forget,” Gallett added. “BorgWarner is proud to help support all Takuma Sato’s and Honda’s celebration events and we would like to publicly thank Takuma for personally supporting our BorgWarner events. Takuma is a happy and humble champion, for sure.”
Sato became the first driver from Japan to win the Indianapolis 500 when he drove to victory on May 28. He has been honored numerous times in his homeland since, but the two-week tour with the Borg-Warner Trophy capped off the celebration.
“It’s been an amazing two weeks with the Borg-Warner Trophy,” Sato said. “It’s special having so much support from the fans from east to west. It’s been a busy trip but such an incredible experience. I’d like to give the whole team a big ‘thank you’ and to everyone who has supported this special, once-in-a-lifetime project, especially Honda and BorgWarner. Without both of them, this would have been impossible.”
According to BorgWarner representative Steve Shunck, fans lined up at every appearance to get their photo taken with the trophy and to get a close-up shot of Sato’s image on the base of the trophy.
At Sato’s fan club meeting, the driver personally met with all 800 fans in attendance. Some presented Sato with gifts, others just wanted to shake his hand, bow or asked to hug him. In return, Sato gave each fan a signed hero card featuring his image on the trophy.
To end “Takuma Sato Fan Day,” Sato replicated his Indianapolis 500 Victory Lane celebration – mirroring a video shown on the big screen of the theater – standing on the car, saluting the fans, putting on the BorgWarner wreath, drinking the milk, hugging his trainer, etc. He even poured the milk over his head again to the cheers of the adoring crowd.
“It’s all about appreciation,” Sato said. “This is the reason I am standing here today – only because of everyone’s support. I feel really fortunate to receive this kind of support, very special. It was a really good year this year and equally I am looking forward to 2018. I get my Baby Borg to start the year in January, so it will start in a memorable way, to which I am thankful!”
The event at the BorgWarner plant in Nabari was special, too, in the city of just under 80,000 that is a six-hour drive from Tokyo. To have a national hero show up to the plant and take a tour was memorable for the employees. Sato also unveiled a conference room named after him.
“It was a dreamy day for us,” said Akemi Honjyou, a member of the plant’s human resources department. “Takuma Sato and the fantastic Borg-Warner Trophy came to Nabari. We were really excited to see the real Takuma Sato and were very lucky to have our photo taken with Takuma Sato. Thank you very much. We treasure the photo as our beautiful memory. We keep cheering on Takuma.”
Some fans made multiple trips to see Sato and the trophy. Taiko Hattori and husband Masahito Mori live in Mito City. They attended Honda Racing day at Twin Ring Motegi, an event at the Tokyo Dome Hotel, Nippon Forum for the “All For 2017” Awards, Sato’s fan day and the final event, the Car of Japan 2017-2018 Awards in Tokyo.
In 2012, they attended their first and only Indianapolis 500, where they saw Sato come so close to victory before crashing on the final lap while battling for the lead.
“After the 2012 Indy 500, we were lucky enough to visit (race winner) Dario Franchitti on the victory podium to get our photo with him and the Borg-Warner Trophy between his TV interviews,” Hattori said. “Today, seeing the Borg-Warner Trophy in Japan is very exciting.
“Thank you for bringing it here. I am grateful.”
Borg-Warner Trophy tour in Japan
Nov. 30 - Trophy arrives in Japan and is transferred to Utsunomiya for storage before heading to Twin Ring Motegi for Honda Racing THANKS DAY.
Dec. 2 – Trophy is transported to Twin Ring Motegi.
Dec. 3 – Twin Ring Motegi, Honda Racing THANKS DAY
Dec. 4 – Tokyo Dome Hotel, Nippon Forum “All For 2017” Awards honoring Sato and 100-meter sprinter Yoshihide Kiryu, the first Japanese athlete to break the 10-second barrier in the 100-meter dash when he ran a 9.98.
Dec. 5 – Trip to Mt. Fuji en route to Nabari
Dec. 6 – BorgWarner plant in Nabari
Dec. 7 – NSK-Warner plant in Fukuroi
Dec. 8-9 – Honda World Headquarters in Tokyo. Trophy was on display 24 hours a day with Sato making an appearance for a magazine cover shoot. The trophy was lit at night so people could view it through the front window.
Dec. 10 – Takuma Sato Fan Club Day
Dec. 11 – Car of Japan 2017-2018 Awards in Tokyo, Japan
Dec. 12 – The Borg-Warner Trophy begins its trip back to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum. A truck transports it from a Tokyo hotel to Narita Airport, followed by a flight to Detroit. There, a cargo van picks up the trophy and delivers it safely back to the IMS museum.