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Strong home race for Sato, Super Aguri 08 Oct 2006

Takuma Sato (JPN) Super Aguri F1 Team on the grid.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 17, Japanese Grand Prix, Race, Suzuka, Japan, 8 October 2006

Takuma Sato invariably performs well at his home Grand Prix and this year was no exception. The Japanese star brought his Super Aguri home in 15th place, ahead of not only his team mate, but also the Spyker MF1 of Tiago Monteiro and the Toro Rosso of Scott Speed.

“This is an absolutely fantastic result for the team - we could not have asked for anything more,” said Sato. “Our performance at the beginning of the weekend was not as it should have been, but I believe that we have done everything that we could for the race.

“The start was very exciting. I overtook a few cars into turn one, but then I got held up and re-overtaken, but then at the Esses I re-overtook Scott Speed, which was an exciting moment. Unfortunately my pace then was not enough and I was overtaken by Speed again. But after I settled into the race the car worked very well and the Bridgestone tyres gave superb performance, so I was able to run competitively.”

After his disqualification in China last weekend, Sato’s home fight-back began on Saturday when he out-qualified Monteiro, putting his SA06 20th on the grid, but it was the Japanese driver’s race pace that really impressed. The fastest lap chart shows that Sato’s best effort was better than five other rivals'.

His 17th-placed time of 1m 35.082s put him ahead SakonYamamoto in the second Super Aguri, the Spyker MF1s of Monteiro and Christijan Albers, the Red Bull of Robert Doorbos and even the Williams of Mark Webber.

It was an impressive performance in what will likely be Sato’s final Formula One outing at his beloved Suzuka circuit, where he always attracts huge support, as the Japanese Grand Prix moves to Fuji next year.

“The fans were incredible!” he added. “I could see all of the flags shining through the sunlight. For me, counting down the laps to the last lap at Suzuka is a very special feeling, but also very sad as the race is ending, and especially as this may be our last race here for a while.”

Although Sato finished a lap down on the leaders, he crossed the line just 11 seconds behind Toro Rosso's Vitantonio Liuzzi. Compatriot Yamamoto had a more troubled race, making three visits to the pits, but nevertheless made it home in 17th to ensure a two-car finish for Super Aguri in their first home Grand Prix.