SONOMA, California – Takuma Sato took the Borg-Warner Trophy home to visit Japan after winning the Indianapolis 500 last year. He takes a new contract with Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing for 2019 with him following the Verizon IndyCar Series finale on Sunday.
RLL announced on Sunday that the 41-year-old winner of the Grand Prix of Portland two weeks ago will return next season with the organization and again be paired with teammate Graham Rahal. It will be Sato’s third season with RLL, including the one-year term he spent with the team co-owned by Bobby Rahal, David Letterman and Mike Lanigan in 2012.
“It’s a great day for us just to keep working together and building a strong environment with Bobby and Mike and Dave. They give us a great environment for the race,” Sato said. “And Graham and I are working on and off track really, really well. It came together really naturally. It took a time just to finalize the contract, but there were no surprises and I’m extremely pleased to be back next year.”
Sato told IndyCar.com that Panasonic, his longtime sponsor, is slated to return. Bobby Rahal described the deal as “multiyear.”
“He’s a winner. He’s had some good races this year,” the team co-owner said. “He’s competitive. He’s fast on ovals and the road circuits, so he’s been a good addition for us, I think.”
Sato’s day at Sonoma Raceway ended early with a mechanical failure after just 15 laps. In addition to the win at Portland, he also finished third at Iowa, fourth at Road America and fifth in the first race at Detroit’s Belle Isle this season in the No. 30 Honda. He finished 12th in the final point standings.
Sato drove seven seasons in Formula One before joining the Verizon IndyCar Series in 2010. Sunday’s race was his 152nd start in the series. He gained his first Indy car win while driving for AJ Foyt Racing at Long Beach in 2013. He has also been the Verizon P1 Award pole winner seven times.
The 41-year-old from Tokyo is eager to get started on 2019.
“Now we have a consistent platform where you go into the offseason with preparation able to be done,” Sato said. “Of course, I’m flying to Japan immediately after the race because we have so many appearances and so many demands – which is great – but also we can bring such happy news.”