Rahal Tests Menards Infiniti Pro Series Car UPDATE Even though he tested an IPS car, the young Rahal will forego that series and race in the Champ Car Atlantics series in 2006 where he certainly will learn a lot more against a stout field of drivers.
Q: What are your plans for the 2006 season?
“I will for sure be racing in Atlantics next year. I can’t say for which team yet, we haven’t signed anything so far, but we’re not going to start our own team.
“We did look at it, but decided it was not worth it, just way too much money to start from scratch. Also, I want to have a strong teammate.
“Other than that, I’m pretty sure I’ll drive in the [Grand American Rolex Series] 24 Hours of Daytona next year, and we also have a couple of offers in the ALMS to do Petit Le Mans and the 12 Hours of Sebring. But in the big picture Atlantics will be our main deal, what we’ll be focusing in next year.
"We would like to do the IPS race with Formula 1 at Indianapolis, to race in front of all the F1 guys like we did last year with Formula BMW. We can’t race any other Pro Series races with the IRL though; I’m still underage, apparently because Marlboro’s sponsorship in IndyCar means drivers must be over 18 to participate in an IRL race.”
Q: And beyond that? 11/14/05 [Editor's Note: After placing an order for a Champ Car Atlantic car, it looks like the Rahals are being lured to race in the IPS instead. It will be interesting to see if young Rahal, who badmouthed the IRL in the interview he did with AutoRacing1.com, will now eat those words and go 100% throttle oval racing.] Bobby Rahal's 16-year-old son Graham completed a very successful test of a Menards Infiniti Pro Series car last week at Putnam Park Road Course in Mount Meridian, Ind.
“We’ll see where this path leads us to. We’ve had some talks with World Series by Renault and GP2 Series teams, it’s something I definitely would like to experience. But I think that would be further down the road, in 2007...” SPEEDTV.com
The test was conducted by last year's championship-winning team, Sam Schmidt Motorsports. Three of the team's cars finished third through fifth in the entrant standings this year in the series, which is the official support series for the Indy Racing League IndyCar Series.
The railbirds watching Rahal were impressed.
"Graham once again showed me why he has a bright future in racing," said his driver coach, Mike Zimicki. "On a less than ideal day and in an unfamiliar car he quickly got down to and then surpassed previously quick times. He listens, absorbs information and then applies it."
Schmidt, a veteran IRL driver himself, said giving Rahal some seat time was an important step for both of them. "I have been keeping my eye on Graham these past couple years and firmly believe the Infiniti Pro Series is the ideal format to showcase his talents," Schmidt said. "He displayed confidence and did a fantastic job at the test. He was very consistent in his approach and was able to improve the car and his speed on every run."
"Graham showed me he is definitely a true racer," said Tim Neff, technical director for Sam Schmidt Motorsports. "Even though he had no prior experience in the car and this level of horsepower, he adapted to the Dallara chassis and the speeds very quickly. Graham exhibited good car control and excellent chassis information feedback."
"It rained some, but I did about 40 laps," the rising star said. "The car is a lot of fun; it's really, really fast. It handled well, but the power was the best thing. Power-wise, it had plenty."
Rahal finished fourth in his rookie season in the Star Mazda championship presented by Goodyear this year. Driving the Andersen Walko Racing No. 12 sponsored by The Bobby Rahal Automotive Group, Bosch, Renier Construction and Norwalk Furniture, he became the youngest driver ever to win a pro Star Mazda race when he was victorious at Portland (Ore.) International Raceway in July.
In September he became the youngest SCCA National Championship Runoffs winner ever when he captured the Formula Atlantic championship at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. His triumph came three decades after his father won the Runoffs title in the Formula Atlantic precursor, then called Formula B.