Sato Leads Third Toronto Practice

Takuma Sato around bumpy Toronto IndyCar track
Takuma Sato owns the fastest lap around Exhibition Place entering qualifying for the 2018 Honda Indy Toronto. | Photo: Adam Pigott / Spacesuit Media

One of Takuma Sato’s 22 laps on Saturday morning stood as the fastest of the third Honda Indy Toronto practice session to put the Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing driver on top entering qualifying.

Late in the 45-minute outing, Sato turned a 58.6777 lap in his No. 30 Honda to displace reigning Verizon IndyCar Series champion Josef Newgarden atop the running order and finalize the sweep of all three practices for title sponsor Honda. Sato’s chart-topping lap unofficially beat the standing circuit record of 58.9124 set by Simon Pagenaud a year ago.

Newgarden ultimately ended Practice 3 down 0.0973 seconds from Sato and 0.1981 seconds quicker than his Team Penske teammate Will Power. Alexander Rossi turned in the fourth-fastest lap in his Andretti Autosport-prepared Honda but Spencer Pigot ensured Chevrolet owned a majority share of the top five as he joined Newgarden and Power in the group.

The top four, ending with Rossi, were under the current track record entering qualifying when the time will be officially challenged.

Scott Dixon improved upon the lap time that propelled him to the top of Friday’s combined timesheet by 0.1182 seconds but landed sixth in the final session before qualifying on the streets of Toronto.

Though he nosed his No. 6 Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda into the Turn 8 tire barrier during the final minute of the session, Robert Wickens was the top Canadian driver in seventh. Graham Rahal, Ryan Hunter-Reay and Ed Jones added three more Hondas to the top 10 which included seven cars from the Japanese manufacturer.

Wickens and Newgarden crash in Toronto IndyCar practice
Mistakes for Robert Wickens and Josef Newgarden occurred seconds apart at the same corner in Practice 3. | Photo: Adam Pigott / Spacesuit Media

While his Penske teammates were second and third, Simon Pagenaud ended up 13th — one position better than local hero James Hinchcliffe.

Wickens’ aforementioned incident at Turn 8 was followed by a spin into the same tire barrier by Newgarden. The AMR INDYCAR Safety Team retrieved both stranded cars as INDYCAR brought out the red and checkered flags simultaneously with about 30 seconds left on the clock.

Qualifying at 1:55 p.m. EDT Saturday is next for the IndyCar field to set the grid for Sunday’s 85-lap race.

What do you think?