Takuma Sato is congratulated by fellow driver Dario Franchitti after winning the pole position for the Edmonton Indy in Edmonton, July 23, 2011.
Photograph by: Ed Kaiser, edmontonjournal.com
EDMONTON - Takuma Sato sheepishly confessed that he did drive in from the Edmonton International Airport on Wednesday, but that wasn’t why he was late for a civic kickoff for the Edmonton Indy.
He also vowed he’ll be much faster on the race track than he was on city streets.
Sato had flown from Japan to Chicago and into Edmonton to join Justin Wilson, Oriol Servia and James Hinchcliffe, one of two Canadians in the 25-car field, at the City Hall gathering.
“This is home,” Hinchcliffe said. “I love racing in Canada and the fan support has always been incredible. We all love coming here and we genuinely think it’s going to be one of the more exciting races on the calendar.”
Alex Tagliani is the other Canadian in the IndyCar Series, which will be preceded by several support races. Racing gets underway Friday at the City Centre Airport with the feature race starting at noon on Sunday. General manager Ike Janacek said there are tickets left but that two of the grandstands are now sold out.
“It’s one of my favourites because I had the best qualifying result here. It’s definitely one of the best tracks,” said Sato, who went into last year’s race as the pole sitter but ended up out of contention after contact on Turn 5.
This will be the 11th race on this season’s IZOD IndyCar calendar, the eighth race staged in Edmonton since 2005.
Coun. Kim Krushell said it has become one of the city’s premier summer events. All four drivers who have won in Edmonton since 2005 will be in this year’s race, including Wilson, who has been in every race since open wheel made its debut at the airport. He took the checkered flag in 2006.
“I’ve been here since the start and seen what great support this venue, this track, has,” Wilson said. “So we appreciate coming here and we want to put on a good show. The old track (which was reconfigured before the 2011 race) was very fast. With the new track, there’s a lot more overtake opportunities ... and a lot of opportunities to crash. I’m looking forward to it.”
The Montreal-based Octane group is in its second year as the race promoter but again did not secure a title sponsor. Before they took over, the Indy had cost the city $12.5 million over three years. There is still one year left on Octane’s contract with Indy and the City of Edmonton.
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