Ryan Hunter-Reay opened eyes throughout motorsports last season when he stepped into the Rahal Letterman Racing Indy Car at Mid-Ohio and made his series debut without a single lap of testing and carried the car to a seventh-place finish.
The American-born Hunter-Reay will now get a chance to chase the championship in 2008 with a full complement of preseason preparation as the Floridian was named today as the driver of the #17 Ethanol Dallara/Honda/Firestone for Rahal Letterman Racing.
“It’s great to make this official. Driving for Rahal-Letterman Racing and Ethanol is a huge honor and a great opportunity; together I am certain we are going to make the most of it,” Hunter-Reay said. “Since I first jumped in the #17 Ethanol IndyCar at Mid-Ohio our goal has been to establish a solid foundation so we could build for a competitive 2008 season. Over the course of six races and six tests we have created a great chemistry within the team and made substantial progress in developing the car around my driving style and setup preferences. My motivation and the confidence I have in the team allows me to be very optimistic as we focus forward. Being an Ethanol spokesperson and representative, on and off the race track, means I will be very busy during this historic year for open wheel racing in America.”
Hunter-Reay joined the team in July of last season, running the final six races of the IndyCar Series season, and won the Bombardier Rookie-of-the-Year award despite making just the six appearances – the fewest race starts by a rookie-of-the-year winner in the Indy Racing League’s 11-year history.
“Ryan brought a new energy to the team last year, but more importantly he raised our competitiveness on the road courses immediately,” said team co-owner Bobby Rahal. “He came in and gave our team a much-needed boost on confidence, showing that we had the ability to run up front given the right combination of driver and team input. With IndyCar races on ovals and road courses under his belt, I fully expect that Ryan will give us every opportunity to do well in 2008.”
Hunter-Reay cut his racing teeth on the road courses of the world, which allowed him to be competitive almost immediately on the IndyCar road-course events. He has two open-wheel wins to his credit in his career, scoring a victory in Surfers Paradise in his rookie year of 2002, then becoming the Champ Car series’ record holder for laps led in a race when he paced all 250 laps in a 2003 win at Milwaukee. RLR PR
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