Rahal enjoys sportscar test time Graham Rahal's schedule continues to keep him busy and this month not only has he enjoyed a return to the new Panoz DP01 Champ Car with Newman/Haas Racing, he's also been testing a Saleen S7R with the ORECA team in Europe.
Rahal has always enjoyed driving sportscars alongside his open-wheel program and with the chance to join ORECA for a few days of testing, he hopped on a plane to Europe last week. First stop was Barcelona, Spain, and his first taste of the Saleen S7R, a sports racer based on the Michigan-built S7 supercar. This week the pre-season program moved to the Paul Ricard circuit in France for endurance testing.
Rahal was back behind the wheel for two days alongside the team's regular drivers and with the car running faultlessly throughout, they were able to simulate driver stints of an endurance race.
The 18-year-old racer said after testing, "I'm never happier than when I'm behind the wheel of a car, so I jumped at the chance to cram in some more miles between Champ Car tests. "My thanks go to Hugues de Chaunac and Steve Saleen for giving me the opportunity to drive with the team.
"The Saleen is quite different than the Champ Car as you would expect, and it's a great car to drive. The test was very productive and with extensive running, I really had the time to get to know the car's handling characteristics and finding its limits.
"It feels more like an open wheel car than a GT, with good acceleration and braking. I enjoy the long stints in the car, but I think the hardest part with sportscar racing is the mental side, needing to hold your concentration for a long race. I think one of my strengths in sportscar racing is picking my way through traffic. I can't demonstrate this in testing, so I hope I'll have a chance to race with this superb car, to show my sportscar racing skills."
After his successful ORECA Saleen test Rahal has returned to the USA in preparation for further Champ Car testing with Newman/Haas Racing. He travels to Laguna Seca, California for the traditional pre-season Spring Training, with all the Champ Car teams attending. Thursday 8 March is a day of media activities, with two full days of testing following on 9 and 10 March.