Rahal Aims for his first Champ Car win
While Bourdais is close to finishing his Champ Car career, Medi | Zone driver Graham Rahal is still just beginning his. The 18-year-old has one more event in his rookie season and one more opportunity to meet a goal he set – to win a race this year. In 13 races this season, he has finished on the podium four times including becoming the youngest podium finisher with his second place in Houston. In 10 of the 13 races, he has been in contention for the win by running in the top-five, including leading three races and setting the fastest lap of the race for the first time in the previous event in Australia. The 17-turn, 2.7-mile Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez layout couldn’t suit his style more if he had designed the course himself.
“I’m looking forward to racing in Mexico City for the first time,” said Rahal, who started his rookie season by splitting time being a professional race car driver and high school senior. “The track definitely suits my style because it has very fast corners and is very windy for a long duration. It’s definitely quick and favors my style so hopefully the Medi | Zone team can finish the season with a good result and hang on to fifth place.”
Like many of the events this season, Rahal will have to learn the course as the Atlantic series, where he finished runner up in 2006, has not competed here. Ending the season on the podium would also aid him in his quest to retain his current fifth place rank. With 220 points to date and a maximum of 34 points available this weekend, Rahal is one of five drivers with an outside chance of taking fourth place from Will Power who has 234. The points battle is so tight that even 10th place Alex Tagliani (197) is within 34 points of Rahal who knows there will be a fierce fight this weekend but he will continue to take a methodical approach to learning the layout and earning the highest possible finish in the season standings.
“Having to adapt quickly to new layouts is something I think we all have had to get used to in this series,” said Rahal, who will be one of five drivers to compete on the course for the first time. “We have all grown up having to get used to new circuits very quickly. You basically have to show up and do a good job. I watch as much tape as possible, pay close attention on the track walk and look at as much data as I can.”
The Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez is named for the famous Mexican brothers Pedro and Ricardo Rodriguez who both lost their lives behind the wheel. Champ Car made its first appearance on the circuit in 1980 and 1981, but did not return again until 2002. In the five years of racing here, Newman/Haas Racing, now named Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing, has earned two wins (Bourdais 2006, 2004), one pole (Bourdais 2004) and five podium finishes (2nd – Junqueira 2004, Bourdais 2003, da Matta 2002). Rahal is hoping to add to NHLR’s numbers this weekend.
“I came to the race last year as a spectator,” said Rahal. “It was very interesting because it was run in the wet and dry and everyone had to anticipate the changes. It was very difficult. I found it very exciting to watch because (Justin) Wilson had only one arm and he led most of the race. Hopefully it will be another good race this year and we can be one of the contenders.”
In an effort to enhance passing and create more racing, the Champ Car World Series will increase the horsepower on its Power-to-Pass function (P2P) from 50 to 100. Drivers will also receive 75 seconds of P2P time, an increase 15 seconds over the normal 60 seconds.
The Gran Premio Tecate Presented by Banamex gets underway on Friday with the first round of qualifying at 2:00 p.m. CST. The final grid will be set on Saturday at 2:00 pm CST and the season-ending race will go green Sunday at 2:00 pm CST and will be broadcast live on ESPN2 from 2:00 – 4:00 p.m. EST.