Former F1 driver Takuma Sato will drive the #14 ABC Supply car for AJ Foyt Racing, the team confirmed on Thursday.
"We chose to go with Takuma Sato because he brings a lot of experience to our team but he has the hunger of a rookie," said AJ Foyt in a statement released by the team. "He's certainly proven he has the desire to win."
It will be Sato's fourth season in the IZOD IndyCar
Series, having already proven himself in 2011 by being the first Japanese driver in the championship to win a pole position in Iowa, which he then repeated a second time in Edmonton later in the season.
Sato finished in third place in the 2012 Sao Paulo race and then went one better in Edmonton, but it was his performance in last year's Indianapolis
500 that caught the eye of AJ Foyt. Sato went into the final lap of the race in second place and was all over leader Dario Franchitti for the top spot, but he finally spun out and hit the wall while making his do-or-die move to the front into turn 1.
Ironically, it was that sort of no-holds-barred approach that made him the ideal candidate as far as Foyt was concerned.
“I like the fact that he is competitive on both road courses and ovals and that he is a charger,” said the four-time Indy 500 champion. "I think he has learned quite a bit in the short time he's been over here and I look forward to working with him this year."
Sato's move to AJ Foyt Racing comes after the former F1 star lost his seat at Rahal Letterman Lanigan, when that team opted to hire Graham Rahal for 2013. While Sato's move to Foyt's team has been rumoured for several weeks, many commentators have wondered just how well the two notoriously fiery personalities will manage to work together in close quarters.
“I am extremely excited to be a part of AJ Foyt Racing and working with ABC Supply for the 2013 season,” insisted Sato. “While I do not know AJ well yet, it is unbelievable what he did in his career.
"AJ has achieved so many wins in every type of car, at every type of circuit, and in every type of situation," said Sato, pointing out that his new team boss is the only driver in history to win the Indy 500, the Daytona
500, the 24 Hours of Daytona
and the 24 Hours of Le Mans in his career. "That experience can only help in trying to win races this year. I think with AJ and the team helping me this year, we can be very successful.
“I have seen the potential of the team last year on a number of occasions," Sato added. "I think the team has one of the best engineering staffs in the paddock led by Don Halliday. I can't wait to start testing next month!"
Before that, Sato has other onerous duties to attend to. "“I will be on a seven-day Caribbean cruise with guests of the team's sponsor ABC Supply, followed by several appearances at industry trade shows," he laughed. "I am anxious to meet them and start working with this great company."