An image from Kizuna 6 Exhibition
From left: Consul General Naoki Ito, Yuno Kimura, Leroy Allala of Chicago Sister Cities International, Lisa Kohnke of Mayor Rahm Emanuel's Office, and Thomas Choi of Governor Bruce Rauner's Office. Kimura presents flowers to express Japanese people's gratitude for Chicagoans.
Takuma Sato presents his activities to help the victims in Tohoku.
• Professional race car driver Takuma Sato
Kizuna 6 Ceremony: Racing Driver Takuma Sato Committed To Helping Tohoku Disaster Victims
• An annual commemorative ceremony for “Kizuna 6: Resilience,” a program to remember the victims of the 2011 great earthquake and tsunami, was held at the Consulate General of Japan’s Japan Information Center in Chicago on March 23. Renowned professional race car driver Takuma Sato was among the special guests to speak about the disaster victims and the widely shared efforts to help their recovery.
• The event was initiated in 2012 by the Chicago-based jazz musician Yoko Noge, who is also the chair of the Osaka Committee of Chicago Sister Cities International. Since then, a series of commemorative events have been held every March to address the disaster and recovery of the people in the disaster-hit Tohoku area, including a photo exhibition, panel discussion and film screenings. This year, the Kizuna 6 Committee was co-chaired by Kimiyo Naka and Kaori Eguchi Stearney and invited Takuma Sato, who founded a nonprofit organization, “With you Japan,” in 2011 to help the children who were affected by the disaster.
• A commemorative photo exhibition is being held in Chicago throughout April. Curated by Alan Labb of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, the “Kizuna 6: Resilience” Photo Exhibition features a selection of the photos of the disaster-hit Tohoku area from the past exhibitions, as well as some new photos by Kiyotaka Shishido, a Tohoku-based photographer, and photos of Kumamoto, the area hit by 2016 Kumamoto Earthquakes.
• According to Labb, each photo is the visual evidence
of resilience and the power of recovery, while it shows the struggle and
hardship the local residents face. The photos depict both Japan’s collective
strength to overcome the worst conditions and the vulnerability of the
life in Japan to natural disasters, Labb said.
• Both Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner praised the recovery effort being made by the Tohoku residents in their respective messages. Lisa Kohnke from the Mayor’s Office read Emanuel’s message and Thomas Choi from the Governor’s Office read Rauner’s.
Takuma Sato: “No Attack, No Chance”
• Professional race car driver Takuma Sato is globally known for competing in the IndyCar Series and Formula One races. He became involved in assisting the 2011 earthquake victims shortly after the disaster hit. He announced the launching of a direct support campaign, “With you Japan,” during the opening of the IndyCar race in St. Petersburg, Florida. He eventually collected items for fund raising from his fellow drivers and team members, such as signed race gloves, helmets, and racing suits.
• Sato said he was on the plane from Europe to the U.S. when the disaster struck. When he heard about it at the airport, Sato was badly shaken and couldn’t help asking himself, “Should I be competing in a car race at a time like this?” But it wasn’t possible to throw his commitment out of the window and simply go to the disaster area to help. As he remained in his engagement, Sato eventually came up with the idea of “With you Japan.”
• Sato has been the primary force to push for awareness
in the U.S. of the Tohoku area and its people; he has held a number of
fundraising events including one in Long Beach, California, and visited
elementary schools in Indianapolis, Las Vegas and other cities to talk
to the children about the victims in Tohoku and their recovery.
• Sato also wants children to know the importance of
having a dream and enjoying taking up a challenge through experiencing
out-of-the-ordinaries. His “Takuma Kids Cart Challenge” program is part
of his effort to introduce children to the exciting world of racing.
Challenge for Sato
• Born in Tokyo in 1977, Sato fell in love with car racing
at the age of 10 when he saw it. Not forgetting his love for wheels, he
was into bicycle racing through his teens, winning numerous races and
awards. But his love was always in car racing.
No Attack, No Chance
• At the 2012 Indy 500 mile race in Indianapolis, Sato
started at the 19th and jumped in second place during the last two of
the 200 laps. Unsatisfied with the second spot, Sato tried to steal the
lead by cutting the inside of the corner of the track during the final
lap. Then his car spun around, skidded out of the track and crashed into
the side wall.
• Looking back on his career, Sato wants to tell children to not be afraid. “You need to challenge when a chance presents itself,” he said. “Someone is watching when you do, and we need to create an environment for children that empowers them to think they can take on a challenge.
Interview with Takuma Sato
• Q: You became a Formula One driver so quickly after you finished the Suzuka Circuit Racing School.
• Sato: The normal course of career to reach the level
of F1 takes about 15 to 20 years, starting with driving a go-kart at the
age of three or four. In my case, it took just five years after I first
put my hands on the go-kart steering wheel.
• Q: You had four wins in the British F3 Series, and secured 3rd place in the entire Series, as well as the first place in a French F3 race, then the British F3 Series champion with 12 wins in the Series, first place in the F3 International Invitation Challenge, first place in the Marlboro Masters of Formula Three, and the first place in the 48th Macau GP. You’ve climbed to the top of the world as a F3 driver.
• Sato: A lot of people helped me to reach that position. Also the F3 championship prepared me to climb up to the world of F1. Also a good timing helped – at that time Honda was pushing for F1. The world of motorsports is made of many forces and factors that are out of an individual’s control.
• Q: I hear that good communication between the driver and the mechanic is indispensable to win a race.
• Sato: That’s really the point. The role of the racing
driver is to work on the potential of the car he or she is driving up
to nearly 100%. We drivers all think that we must make up for the imperfection
of the car with our driving skill, but that’s possible only in the lowest
categories of the races. The higher the level you go, the less possible
it becomes to make up for the mechanical potential of the car with human
skills. Driving a high-performance car, any driver can come up with a
good result. But in order to get there, a team effort is required between
the driver and a team of mechanics and engineers who must bring the car
to its best condition within a limited period of time. Good communication
skills and knowledge is definitely necessary for it to work.
• Q: You switched from AJ Foyt Racing to Andretti Autosport this year.
• Sato: It takes time to get used to new ways of doing things and build new relationships, but it’s also fun. This [Andretti] is an absolutely strong team, so I expect I’ll have a lot more opportunities to compete for the leading position in the race, which excites me pretty much. So I really want to get used to the team as quickly as possible so I can perform my best in the way the team operates. That’s going to be a challenge for me.
• Q: I see that during a race, you could get behind after a pit stop even though you have been at the top up until then.
• Sato: Ultimately it’s the decision to be made by both
the driver and the team. For example, when you don’t have enough fuel
for the last two laps, because you lose about 20 seconds in one pit stop,
you plan for a pit stop after you’ve first created a 20-second lead by
driving at a full speed. If you can create only a 10-second lead, you
drive in such a way that you can save your fuel even if that causes one
or two seconds of slowdown per lap. It’s possible that you can make it
to the finish line without refueling if you plan right and control your
• Q: Do you ever get scared?
• Sato: I’m a human after all, so I get scared a lot
• Q: Have you had major accidents?
• Sato: Many times. But, generally speaking, the safety standards of the top categories such as IndyCar and Formula One are extremely high. I’ve crashed into the wall at 300 kilometers per hour and received more than 100G shock many times, but I have never had broken bones or lost consciousness. Fortunately, I’ve been in perfect health.
• Q: Is that because you physically train your body?
• Sato: Not just training. The race car manufacturers and race track operators constantly keep up with safety considerations. They do scientific studies to determine and install tire barriers and safety barriers, for instance. That enables us drivers to concentrate 100% on driving performance. That’s such a big difference from 50 years ago.
• Q: What can you tell us about courtesy between competing drivers on the track when they are fighting each other for a 0.1 second difference?
• Sato: We do have courtesy. We must have respect for
each other, no matter how safe it might be. After all, we are putting
out a huge amount of kinetic energy when the car is running at 300 kilometers
• Q: Is it hard to get a new sponsor?
• Sato: Every year we have a hard time with that. Times
change and it’s crucial to catch the right timing. Nowadays it’s a tough
going if you don’t have support from [auto] manufacturers. I’m always
extremely grateful that I have many corporate and individual sponsors
that support me and my racing activities.
• Q: Thank you ver