Honda hosted a "Takuma Sato Fan Day" at its Japanese headquarters ahead of next weekend's IZOD IndyCar Series race on the Motegi road course, and the Japanese driver used the opportunity to refute concerns raised last week by Danica Patrick about the event.
Patrick said on Friday that the decision to race in Japan was unwise, pointing to potential risks from radiation and lingering aftershocks from the March earthquake that devastated parts of the country. However, Sato – who launched a "With you Japan" relief effort for victims following the March quake – says he has no such concerns.
"I have no hesitation to race at Twin Ring Motegi or in Japan. None," Sato declared. "After the tragic events of March 11, 2011, the entire country has come together to rebuild and make the country safe for all its countrymen and visitors.
"I am proud to race here and I feel no harm will be done by racing at Motegi to myself, other drivers, fans or media. We all thank Honda and IndyCar for their support of the event. Countless hours have been spent to ready the facility to race on the road course and I hope everyone looks forward to a safe and competitive event. I could not be happier to be part of the event with my fellow drivers and IndyCar race teams."
Sato relayed his mid-July experience of hosting children of the impacted areas for a day of enjoyment at Twin Ring Motegi between races in the schedule. More than 2,500 children attended, including about 80 from the affected area near the nuclear power station. A special gift from an Indiana grade school was especially well-received, he said.
“I brought artwork to Motegi that had messages – some in Japanese – to the children and they were so happy to know someone was thinking about them,” said Sato. “The point is Japanese children feel the support from children about their same age in the States. I was so happy to see the children smile all day.”
In July, the U.S. State Department issued a travel advisory that said health and safety risks outside a 50-mile radius of the Fukushima nuclear power plant, which suffered a partial meltdown and leaked radiation following the earthquake, are low and do not pose significant risks. Twin Ring Motegi is about 90 miles from the plant.
Practice for the event, which will be run on Motegi's infield road course rather than the oval, which suffered damage from the quake, gets under way on Friday.