Indy 500 practice underway with Sato starting on top

Practice 3 for the 2023 Indianapolis 500 - Wednesday, May 17
© IndyCar Media

Former Indianapolis 500 winner Takuma Sato began his campaign for success in this year's race by topping the timesheets in first day of practice on Wednesday.

The Japanese star's best lap of the two and a half mile Indianapolis Motor Speedway oval clocked in at 39.2261s (229.439mph) and was set in the final two hours of the session featuring sunny skies and air temperatures in the mid-70s.

Having won the race in 2017 with Andretti Autosport and in 2020 with Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing, this is Sato's first Indy outing for new team Chip Ganassi Racing.

His new team mate Scott Dixon - a multiple Indy 500 and IndyCar Series champion - was second quickest with a time of 39.2714s. The other members of the squad's line-up are Alex Palou and Marcus Ericsson who were 4th and 7th respectively.

Palou had emerged victorious on the Speedway's road course circuit in the most recent IndyCar race at the weekend, putting him on top of the championship standings by six points from McLaren's Pato O'Ward.

Practice 3 for the 2023 Indianapolis 500 - Wednesday, May 17

© IndyCar Media

“The organisation is very impressive,” Sato said when asked how he was fitting in at Ganassi. “Everything is in the right place and the right people. They use their resources and make the most of it. Preparation is simply impressive.

"All four drivers divided a few different programs," he commented. "We’re just working on what’s the best way.

"I wasn’t particularly happy with the kind of sensation I was getting in the morning," he continued.

"In the afternoon, the group run by Ganassi was a great hint for me about what needs to be done. We went for it, and we had a big tow, and that’s why we have a very successful platform right now.”

Sato and Dixon were the only two drivers to top 229mph, with AJ Foyt Racing's Santino Ferrucci, Palou and Penske's Scott McLaughlin all narrowly missing out.

Practice 3 for the 2023 Indianapolis 500 - Wednesday, May 17

© IndyCar Media

Andretti's Colton Herta was sixth ahead of Ericsson, followed by series veterans Ryan Hunter-Reay (Dreyer & Reinbold), Josef Newgarden (Penske) and Marco Andretti rounding out the top ten.

The first day of practice had originally been scheduled for Tuesday, but was washed out by intermittent showers. It's only the third complete cancellation of a practice day for 'The Greatest Spectacle in Racing' in the last seven years.

The last time practice was completely rained-out was May 18 last year, and before that not since May 17 in 2016.

This year's qualifying will take place at the weekend, while the 107th running of the Indy 500 is set to get the green flag on Sunday, May 28 just hours after the finish of the Monaco GP in Europe.

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