Watch: ‘Thanks for the Memories, Takuma’ Video
Two-time Indianapolis 500 winner Takuma Sato will not drive for Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing in the 2022 NTT INDYCAR SERIES, team social media posts confirmed Tuesday.
Sato raced for the team for five seasons over two stints, in 2012 and from 2018-21. He earned his second Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge victory in 2020 for the team, co-owned by INDYCAR legend Bobby Rahal, late night TV icon David Letterman and business owner Mike Lanigan.
“It was a privilege and an honor to have Takuma with us twice over the years,” Rahal said in a team tweet. “We appreciate the commitment and the energy he brought every day to the track and to everything that we were doing as a team. Of course, we are forever indebted to him for bringing the PeopleReady car home first in the 2020 Indy 500. It was a special moment for me personally, for Mike and his family and for our entire team. What a fantastic victory.
“I always enjoyed working with Takuma. His dedication and commitment to not just his craft, but also the team was unquestionable. We wish him all the best on his next opportunity. I would like to think we will always remain friends because we just enjoyed each other’s company.”
Said Lanigan in a team tweet: “I have a tremendous amount of respect for Takuma, not only for his capabilities on the track, but also how he handles himself off the track. I will always be grateful for what he has done for the team and for the success he has brought, particularly for winning the 2020 Indianapolis 500.”
Sato, from Tokyo, won four races for RLL during his tenure with the team. Besides the Indy 500 win, he also captured the checkered flag in 2018 at Portland International Raceway and in 2019 at Barber Motorsports Park and World Wide Technology Raceway. His best finish in the season standings with the team was seventh in 2020, buoyed by his double-points victory in the Indianapolis 500.
Former Formula One driver Sato also won three NTT P1 Awards for pole position during his RLL tenure.
While Sato was winless in his first season with RLL in 2012, he captured the hearts of racing fans worldwide with his daring passing attempt of Dario Franchitti in Turn 1 on the final lap of the Indy 500. Sato spun into the SAFER Barrier to trigger a caution that ended the race with Franchitti as the winner, but the attempt was a classic example of Sato’s “no attack, no chance” mentality that has endeared him to fans throughout his NTT INDYCAR SERIES career.
No announcement was made about Sato’s replacement at RLL.