DETROIT – Takuma Sato now has what every Indianapolis 500 driver desires: his own BorgWarner Drivers Championship Trophy, a memento commonly referred to as “a Baby Borg.”
Now, the first Japanese driver to win the Indy 500 must decide where the smaller version of the iconic Borg-Warner Trophy resides.
“I haven’t decided if it’s going to Indy or Japan,” Sato said tonight. “Anywhere will do.”
Sato was presented with the BorgWarner Championship Drivers Trophy by BorgWarner Inc. President and CEO James Verrier at the annual Automotive News World Congress Dinner, held in conjunction with the North American International Auto Show.
Baby Borgs stand 14 inches high, weigh 5 pounds and rest on a beveled black marble base bearing the driver’s name, year of victory and a three-dimensional sterling silver image of the driver like that on the full-sized iconic Borg-Warner Trophy. The driver’s trophy was established in 1988, with Rick Mears receiving the first.
It stands to reason that Japan is the likely ultimate destination for Sato’s Baby Borg since the winner of the 2017 Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil considers seeing the big trophy showcased last month in Japan his favorite moment since winning the race in May.
“In a very good way there have been moments, like seeing (my likeness) on the (actual) trophy,” Sato said. “But seeing this trophy in Japan – the first time it was outside the United States – that was a very special moment. Very special.”
Team owners also receive Baby Borgs, which meant Michael Andretti also was on hand Wednesday night -- for his fifth such trophy and third in the past four years.
“I keep saying this is the one thing you want to come to Detroit for in the winter,” Andretti said.
For Andretti, the Baby Borg is further validation that Andretti Autosport is doing things the right way at “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing.” Dan Wheldon gave Andretti’s team its first Indy victory in 2005. It was followed by Dario Franchitti’s win in 2007, Ryan Hunter-Reay in 2014 and Alexander Rossi in 2016. Only Roger Penske’s team (16) has won the Indianapolis 500 more often.
“I think that’s great, and I think that says something about our team,” said Andretti, who never won the Indy 500 in 16 attempts as a driver, though he led more laps than any non-winner. “You can’t say it’s because we had ‘this driver’ or ‘that driver.’ That’s not why we won all of these races. We’ve proving ourselves by winning with different guys.”
The next question will be whether Andretti’s team can continue its recent domination of the race once the Verizon IndyCar Series begins using universal aero kits for the upcoming season. INDYCAR formally unveiled the new chassis equipment configuration Tuesday at Detroit’s auto show.
“At this point, we don’t know what will happen,” Andretti said of the competitive balance of the series. “It should be OK for us – we’ve been working hard. Hopefully we’re doing a better job than our competition.”
Interestingly, that competition includes Sato, who is now driving for Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing.
The 102nd Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil is scheduled for May 27 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway and airs live on ABC and the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network (11 a.m. ET). The Verizon IndyCar Series season starts March 11 with the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg (12:30 p.m. ET, ABC and Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network). The 17-race schedule features six races on oval tracks, six on permanent road courses and five on temporary street circuits.