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Sato denies Suzuka speculation

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Sato denies Suzuka speculation
Sep 23, 2003, 4:09 AM

According to recent reports, BAR test driver Takuma Sato was hoping to step into Jacques Villeneuve's seat for Suzuka but Sato has denied he said he would race in Japan. Villeneuve's rocky situation at BAR is well known and recently the ...

According to recent reports, BAR test driver Takuma Sato was hoping to step into Jacques Villeneuve's seat for Suzuka but Sato has denied he said he would race in Japan. Villeneuve's rocky situation at BAR is well known and recently the Canadian suggested he wouldn't be surprised if there was someone else in his seat at the season finale in Japan. He later said the comment was a joke.

Takuma Sato.
Photo by Honda F1 Press Office.
Sato, who appeared in Scotland at the Mount Stewart Motorsport Classic on the Isle of Bute over the weekend, was quoted by the Herald as saying he would like to race in his home country and "my understanding is that he (Villeneuve) won't be racing in the final grand prix of the season. If he doesn't, then I'll take his place."

However, Sato's management have since released a statement saying: "The reports that Taku will be racing at Suzuka are utter nonsense. He has never claimed that he will be running at Suzuka. We expect that Villeneuve will be running in the car. Any reports to the contrary are pure fiction."

Sato himself said: "I don't understand why the press make these things up. I imagine that there is a lot of enthusiasm from people, but I have never said that I will be racing there. As far as I am concerned, the team already has two race drivers and nothing has changed that."

BAR boss David Richards recently aired the idea of a driver shoot-out competition to decide who would partner Jenson Button next year, which Villeneuve, unsurprisingly, was not impressed with. Richards, however, said since: "It's something we have discussed but it was never intended as an assessment against Jacques."

BAR's engine partner Honda is pushing for Sato to return to competition but Richards has repeatedly said he's not in any hurry to finalise a driver line-up for 2004. Honda vice president Otmar Szafnauer is scheduled to take part in Friday's FIA press conference at Indianapolis this coming weekend, so no doubt the matter will be raised again.

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