Sato wins Indy 500 after Alonso suffers engine heartbreak

© XPB 

Takuma Sato is the first Japanese driver in history to win the famed Indy 500 mile race, after out-duelling three-time winner Helio Castroneves to the chequered flag.

The former Jordan, BAR and Super Aguri Formula 1 driver was near the front in the early laps. He lost time during a round of pit stops and dropped down the running order, meaning he spent much of the afternoon working his way back toward the front.

Sato took the lead with five laps remaining. He immediately came under intense pressure from Castroneves, who inched in front. Sato was able to re-pass the Brazilian and then pulled away from his pursuers in the final minutes.

Sato was racing for Andretti Autosport, making him one of five team mates to Fernando Alonso. The two-time Formula 1 world champion drove impressively in his first oval race. Rarely out of the top ten all afternoon, he took the lead for the first time on lap 33. With two more of the Andretti drivers - former Indy 500 winners Ryan Hunter-Reay and Alexander Rossi - he helped control the first half of the race.

Ominously, Hunter-Reay's Honda engine failed on lap 137. Ganassi driver Charlie Kimball also had his power unit go up in smoke on lap 166. There was a depressing sense of inevitability that Alonso's engine would go the same way sooner or later. It finally happened with 21 laps remaining, leaving Alonso parked on the straightaway. No stranger to Honda woes in the last couple of years, Alonso climbed out of the #29 to cheers and acclaim from a huge crowd.

The first retirements of the race had come on lap 53. It started when Jay Howard hit the wall and rebounded into the path of polesitter and early race leader Scott Dixon. Dixon's car was launched into the air and landed on top of the inside wall, ripping the Ganassi car in half. Amazingly, despite the violence of the accident, both drivers were unhurt.

The race was red-flagged for half an hour while the track was cleared up. Five laps after the restart, former GP3 driver Conor Daly went hard into the wall after contact with Charlie Kimball. English rookie Jack Harvey - another of the Andretti Autosport clan - also spun trying to avoid debris from Daly's accident.

As the race passed the halfway point, Castroneves started to become a factor at the front. There were more yellows in the second half, starting with Buddy Lazier spinning out into the wall on lap 122. That was followed by cautions for Hunter-Reay, Kimball and Alonso's retirements. At the restart following Alonso's exit, there was a huge five-car crash sparked by contact between Oriol Servia and injured Sebastien Bourdais' stand-in James Davison. Caught up in the aftermath of the initial accident were James Hinchcliffe, Will Power and Josef Newgarden. Newgarden was the only driver involved who was subsequently able to rejoin the race.

Fuel strategy had left former Marussia F1 driver Max Chilton at the front for Ganassi. When the race restarted for the final time, Chilton tried his best but ultimately couldn't hold off a resurgent Sato. Castroneves followed Sato through and briefly took the lead. However, Sato - who narrowly missed out on victory in 2012 - would not be denied a second time and duly clinched the race by two tenths of a second.

Behind Castroneves, English rookie Ed Jones took third for Dale Coyne Racing. Chilton succeeded in holding on to fourth place ahead of veteran team mate Tony Kanaan. Castroneves' Penske team mate Juan Pablo Montoya was sixth ahead of Rossi, followed by Marco Andretti, Gabby Chaves and Carlos Munoz.
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