Sato has Sights on Big Send-Off

Takuma Sato wants to go out in a blaze of glory after qualifying on the third row for Sunday's Japanese Grand Prix, his last at Suzuka for BAR

Sato has Sights on Big Send-Off

Sato, who has lost his drive with the Honda-powered team for 2006 after a wretched year, took advantage of a drying track and a break in the rain to post the fifth-quickest time ahead of his emotional farewell.

Sato's British teammate Jenson Button was second quickest behind Toyota's Ralf Schumacher.

"Surprisingly the weather was kind to us," said Sato, whose final race for BAR will come at next week's season-ending Chinese Grand Prix.

"But this feels like my circuit so there's no reason why I shouldn't be challenging for a podium finish."

Sato's Formula One future is unclear after BAR opted to replace him with Brazilian Rubens Barrichello from next year. Sato has taken just one point all season.

BAR's decision to drop Sato caused a backlash from angry Japanese fans, prompting Button to take extra security measures in the country.

But Sato had his sights solely on a top-three finish after deteriorating weather left new World Champion Fernando Alonso and both McLarens languishing near the back of the grid.

"It's important for me to do well here," said the 28-year-old, who has been linked with a mystery team hoping to join Formula One next year.

"It is the first circuit I drove a racing car at and this year will be very special. Where we are standing we have a really good chance to both get on the podium."

Sato has some pedigree at Suzuka after finishing fourth last year, sixth in 2003 and fifth, for Jordan, in 2002.

"Obviously the quicker cars from the back of the grid will catch us up but we'll see how we go," he said. "I will be going flat-out to make it a good send-off."

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