Rahal to drive for father’s team at Petit LeMans HILLIARD, Ohio - Growing up reading about the exploits not only of his fabled father, but of versatile racing superstars like Dan Gurney, Mario Andretti and Mark Donohue, Graham Rahal gained an appreciation for the guys that were fast not only in their own cars - but in pretty much any car that came along.
Now as an 18-year-old star-in-the-making, Graham Rahal will grab the opportunity to follow in those famous footsteps as he takes time out of his Champ Car schedule to join the Rahal Letterman Racing road-racing program for this year’s Petit Le Mans.
Like he did in the team’s American Le Mans Series season opener in Sebring, Rahal will partner with Tom Milner and Ralf Kelleners for an assault on the ALMS GT2 class victory in this year’s Petit Le Mans. The event, which takes place October 3-6 at Road Atlanta, will pit the team and its Bell Micro-sponsored Porsche 911 GT3 RSR against the field in a race that ends when the first car completes either 10 hours or 1,000 miles. The event will not conflict with the end of his Champ Car season, which resumes October 19-21. Rahal is currently fifth in the Champ Car standings and is second in the fight for the series’ Rookie-of-the-Year award.
“The biggest thing for me is that it’s always nice to drive for Dad, Scott (Roembke) and the team,” Graham said. “I’ve known many of the mechanics on the team for a long time and doing something like this is a lot of fun for me. But it is also very important for me to come out and compete. To me, the difference between a good driver and a great one is the ability to drive anything and be quick. Guys like my dad, like Gurney and (Michael) Schumacher are the guys that I wanted to emulate because they were the ones that were forces, no matter what kind of car they were in. That, and the fact that I really enjoy driving the Porsche RSR, attracts me to the opportunity to join Tom and Ralf in races like Petit Le Mans.”
The trio showed its strength in the 12 Hours of Sebring earlier in the year, fighting back from a first-lap incident to finish sixth. The team lost 12 laps to the field on the opening lap when contact punctured the Porsche’s radiator, but both drivers fought back running double (two-hour) driving stints to earn a spot in the top half of the field.
“It’s great to have Graham join us again as he did a great job at Sebring earlier in the year,” Milner said. “We’ve definitely improved the car since then and as always the whole shop at RLR is working hard to make it even faster. I think we’ll be in good shape early on so hopefully we can focus on the little things to make the car comfortable for the whole race.”
The RLR ALMS squad has gained momentum in the second half of the season, with both Milner and Kelleners tied for fourth in the driver standings, using a string of three podium finishes in the last five races to move up the ladder. Rahal will add to the experience of the driver lineup as he, unlike most open-wheel drivers in the United States, has a handful of Road Atlanta races under his belt dating back to his time in Star Mazda and SCCA competition.
“I have raced there four or five times before and I think the track provides a strong challenge for these cars,” told Graham. “It’s a pretty quick track. I’ve never driven anything like the GT car on it but I am really looking forward to it.”
It will also mark the second pairing between the younger Rahal and his father, three-time IndyCar/Champ Car champion Bobby Rahal. This is the first season that Rahal Letterman Racing has competed in the ALMS and at the Petit Le Mans, but the team and its legendary co-owner are looking forward to challenging for its first series victory.
“I am very pleased that Graham is able to join us for Petit Le Mans,” Bobby said. “I thought he did an excellent job for us at Sebring and I think he adds to the talent level of the organization. I’m excited for him, because I think he really enjoys sportscar racing and we are looking forward to having him run with us.”
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