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Japanese Stars Sato, Muroya Compare Secrets of Speed on Track, in Air during IMS Visit

As cameras clicked in a frenzied sequence of photographs, aerobatic pilot Yoshihide Muroya lifted the hand of fellow Japanese countryman Takuma Sato to get a closer look at two diamond-studded winner rings.

Sato smiled at the extra attention shown the gold keepsakes that commemorate his career-defining May triumph in the 101st Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil.

Muroya hopes he’ll walk away from Indianapolis Motor Speedway with his own memorable accomplishment after the Red Bull Air Race on Sunday. He’s in second place in the Master Class, four points behind Martin Sonka of the Czech Republic, entering the finale to decide the World Championship.

Sato’s popularity soared in Japan after the Verizon IndyCar Series driver swigged the milk in May. Muroya has his share of fans, too, as the first Asian pilot in the Master Class. He has three wins this year, but the most meaningful victory came last year at home in Chiba, Japan, in front of 90,000 fans. He repeated that victory this season.

“The Air Race is getting more popular and him winning in Japan’s race, people realize him more and more,” Sato said. “This year, for the final race, he’s fighting for the championship at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. That’s such a great story. I can’t miss it. So I had to fly from Japan to this specific race.”

One racer to another, Sato considered Muroya quite the gentleman.

“The first time I met him today, but it didn’t feel that way,” Sato said. “It feels like we’ve known each other a long time.”

The modest Muroya, 44, admitted he’s always admired Sato, 40, after watching him for years in television interviews.

“He’s a good champion,” Muroya said. “He’s more famous, much more. He drove Formula One before and then won the Indy 500. He’s the top. That was big news in Japan. Everybody knows him.”

Sato’s rings weren’t the only things given closer inspection in that infield hangar. Muroya showed his new friend the Edge 540 V3 airplane used to soar through Air Gate inflatable pylons on an infield course at speeds in excess of 200 mph.

“I’m really fascinated,” Sato said. “Flying and driving are different things, but there’s a lot of similarities. These are ultra-competitive machines, and the philosophy is the same. He’s been doing this a long time, and he’s obviously one of the best pilots. I really enjoy talking to him.”

Their conversation didn’t just pertain to racing. Both would like to give the other a two-seater ride in their respective machines.

“We’d love to do that here at IMS,” Sato said. “Unfortunately with the logistics, we can’t do the two-seater ride for him here today. We’ll figure it out, and maybe it’s something we can do in Japan.”

Muroya has a two-seater plane back home.

“Yeah, some day, hopefully we can fly together,” he said.

Pilots withstand as much as 10 G’s in their planes whereas IndyCar drivers endure up to 6 G's when zooming around this famed 2.5-mile oval. Sato was unaware that IndyCar driver James Hinchcliffe got sick after taking a recent two-seater flight with two-time world champion Kirby Chambliss.

But that didn’t discourage Sato.

“These are incredible machines; I want to do it,” he said. “I don’t want to lose my breakfast, but I’d like to give it a go.”

Sato and Muroya shook hands once more and wished each other well. As much as Muroya enjoyed the meeting, he quickly shifted his focus back to winning a race.

“I’d just like to be the World Champion in air racing,” he said. “That’s it.”

While it doesn’t matter much to him, maybe then a few more people will recognize him like they do Sato.

As Sato departed the hangar area, a member of the IMS Safety Patrol didn’t recognize him from a distance. That changed after Sato walked by up close.

“That’s not a pilot!” the IMS Safety Patrol member said. “That’s the Indy 500 winner right there!”

Visit IMS.com to purchase tickets for the Red Bull Air Race World Championship and for more information on the event weekend. Children 15 and under receive free General Admission when accompanied by an adult General Admission ticket holder.

An interactive Fan Guide for the event also is available at www.ims.com/RBARFanGuide.

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