Ex-F1 driver Takuma Sato savours 'second chance in life' after Indy 500 win
INDIANAPOLIS - Takuma Sato thought his motor racing career had come to an end when he bid farewell to Formula One in 2008 but the Japanese driver is relishing his "second chance in life" after winning the Indianapolis 500 for a second time in four years on Sunday.
Sato, who became the first Japanese driver to win the Indy 500 in 2017, crossed the finish line unchallenged on Sunday after Spencer Pigot crashed into the wall with five laps left, bringing out the yellow caution flag.
The 43-year-old, who made 90 Formula One starts between 2002 and 2008, said he "never even imagined a situation like today"
"Look ... 40-years-old, still driving, that's just living in a dream," Sato told reporters.
"People say 2012 was probably my peak and the best shot ... we kept on going.
"We had a second chance in life. I say keep challenging, keep open the door, then you'll get eventually the chance.
"I never thought my racing life would go on any longer than Formula One. Now I'm competing here more than 10 years."
Sato, who became one of only 20 drivers to have won the Indy 500 at least twice, said he would never tire of competing in the race.
"You're always hungry to win, no matter who you are... There's just an energy that is Indy 500." (Reporting by Shrivathsa Sridhar in Bengaluru; Editing by Peter Rutherford )
No thundering ovation
Billed as the world's biggest single day sporting event, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway would normally be packed with 300 000 fans. But with no spectators allowed into the sprawling facility because of Covid-19 safety protocols, Sato was denied the thundering ovation that usually goes with victory.
He was, however, able to chug from the traditional quart of milk as members of his Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing team celebrated around him across from the empty grandstands.
After 190 laps around the 4km oval the race had come down to a two way battle between Sato and IndyCar five-time drivers champion Scott Dixon, who had spent much of the afternoon out front, leading for 111 laps.
But with Dixon, the 2008 Indy 500 winner, stalking Sato and poised to make a move the race was denied a dramatic conclusion when Pigot lost control coming out of Turn Four, slammed the outside wall and spun across the track into the barrier lining the pit lane.
With debris from Pigot's demolished car spread across the track Sato was able to coast home to a relaxed win ahead of a frustrated Dixon, who had hoped for a red flag to stop the race setting up a final lap shootout for the crown.
No triple crown for Alonso
Fernando Alonso's bid to become just the second driver to complete the Triple Crown of Motorsport, which also includes wins at the Monaco Grand Prix and Le Mans 24 Hours, ended in disappointment and a 21st place finish.
It might be the last chance in some time for the Spaniard to realise his dream as he is due to return to Formula One with Renault next season after two years away from Grand Prix racing.