Takuma Sato is convinced he can challenge for victory in the IndyCar season opener in St. Petersburg after qualifying on the front row for his AJ Foyt Racing debut.
The ex-Formula 1 racer is certain that his Honda engine is on competitive terms with Chevrolet's, despite the latter having secured seven of the top 10 places in qualifying.
Sato believes that many of the Honda teams are having problems unrelated to the engine.
"I don't think [Honda] have an issue," said Sato. "We worked really hard in terms of the balance of the car. Today's conditions, or maybe perhaps this year's [softer option] tire made the conditions different in terms of balance. I'm very satisfied with Honda's performance, and certainly compared to the last year, it's tons better.
"So I think Honda worked really hard, and hopefully by tomorrow also with the longer race distance we will not be at a disadvantage, and we'll have a good enough car to win the race or to challenge for the win, at least. I don't think there is any big difference between Chevy and Honda."
Sato's front row result comes on his first weekend with AJ Foyt's team after he moved across from Rahal Letterman Lanigan at the end of last year.
"The team obviously worked really hard over the course of the winter test program," Sato said. "To hold on to P2 was a perfect result for the team, and I'm really pleased to get it done."
Sato's previous best qualifying position in St. Petersburg was 11th, which he has achieved twice.