Rahal Letterman Lanigan team gears up for 2-car season
Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing will begin their 22nd consecutive season of competition in 2013. This season marks the first time the team has prepared more than one fulltime entry for the full IZOD IndyCar Series season since 2007 when Scott Sharp and Jeff Simmons drove for the team. Simmons was replaced by Ryan Hunter-Reay for the final six of 17 races. The team entered cars in the Indy 500 each year since then and will prepare the No. 15 Midas / Big O Tires entry for Graham Rahal and the No. 16 Acorn Stairlifts entry for James Jakes for the full 2013 season and will enter the No. 17 blueCigs entry for Mike Conway in the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach. Conway will pilot the No. 16 car on Tuesday at Barber Motorsports Park (BMP) and Jakes will take over on Wednesday.
GRAHAM RAHAL ON THE INTENSE TWO WEEKS AHEAD
Graham Rahal, 24, will compete in his seventh season in a major open wheel series and his first full one with RLL. He is looking forward to the BMP test to see where he and the team stack up against the competition heading into the 2013 Honda Grand Prix of St. Pete season opener March 22-24.
“I’m looking forward to Barber because it’s different than Sebring, which is a pretty hard place to gauge yourself against the competition,” said Rahal. “Barber is pretty representative because it’s a track we will race at. I’m looking forward to getting there. I guess more than anything it’s a track I really, genuinely love. For us as a team, it’s going to be our first and last benchmark before we hit the road and get racing this year. It’s going to the first time we really, truly see where we are versus our competition. After that test we’re going racing in St. Pete. It’s going to be intense but it’s going to be a quick turnaround.”
RACE ENGINEER GERRY HUGHES ON CONTINUING TO BUILD ON THE 2013 TEST PROGRAM WITH GRAHAM
The 2013 season will mark the second for race engineer Gerry Hughes at RLL and in the IZOD IndyCar Series. He is looking to build on the knowledge gained with Graham Rahal from a test in December and February.
"Barber is going to be a crucial test for the entire team but more specifically for Graham as we continue to build on our experiences of the previous two test events; both of which have been at Sebring,” said Hughes. “I have only been to Barber Motorsports Park once since joining RLL, so there is a great deal to consider regarding the specifics of this demanding road course but this is testing and we have a defined program of tests to run through, so I am looking forward to Tuesday. Having said that, all cars present will have their 2013 race engines fitted and will conform to the 2013 regulations, so it will be interesting to see where we stand in the pecking order at the end of the day going in to the first race event at St. Petersburg in a few weeks time.”
JAMES JAKES IS LOOKING FORWARD TO HIS THIRD INDYCAR SEASON AND FIRST WITH RLL
James Jakes has competed at BMP two times with Dale Coyne Racing. He started 20th in 2012 and finished 16th and retired in 25th in 2011 due to mechanical failure after qualifying in the same position. Jakes is looking forward to getting back behind the wheel of an IndyCar at Barber for the first time since the conclusion of the 2012 season.
“It will be exciting to get back out there and shake a few cobwebs off,” replied Jakes, who just returned from a quick trip to visit family and friends in England. ‘I’m really excited to start working with the team and get into the swing of things, really. Hopefully the weather will be good to us so we can get quite a lot of work done. Generally Barber provides a good, general setup for most road courses we go to although we only go to Barber and Sonoma this season. Generally if you can dial in Barber right, then you can carry that over to Sonoma. For me it will just be about getting back in the car. It’s a good place to check the high speed balance and that will get me up to speed for this year and get me ready for (the season-opener in) St. Pete. I have been spending time in the gym and shifter kart to get as much time as I can before the season starts. I’m going to try to get in the kart before the test and then also after the test before St. Pete to try to get as much mileage and speed as I can.”
RACE ENGINEER EDDIE JONES ON WORKING WITH FELLOW BRIT JAKES
Eddie Jones joined the team in December to be the race engineer for the team’s No. 16 entry. Most recently Jones spent over 15 years with Team Green/Andretti Autosport as a race engineer in Indy Lights, Champ Car and the IndyCar Series and moved to KV Racing Technology in 2012 to be Formula One veteran Rubens Barrichello’s race engineer.
“I’m really looking forward to working with James,” said Jones. “He’s been in the series a couple of seasons and had a very good reputation in Europe. I certainly don’t think we’ve seen his potential realized in this series, no where near. I’m looking forward to striking a rapport with him and getting a very good working relationship and hopefully build on that through the season and get the results he’s capable of. It’s a shame with the limited testing, we are going to run at Barber and then it’s on to the first race shortly after that so we are going to have to hit the ground running. But we’re both English, we speak the same language so to speak and I’m really looking forward to it. I think it’s a good challenge and I really feel that James has the capability to be competitive in this series so hopefully we can achieve that with him.”
MIKE CONWAY RETURNS TO BARBER WHERE HE HAS TWO, TOP-FOUR STARTS IN THREE EVENTS
Mike Conway will drive the team’s No. 17 blueCigs entry in the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach and will test the No. 16 car on Tuesday at Barber Motorsports Park. He has competed at BMP three times. In 2012 he qualified fourth and finished seventh for A.J. Foyt Racing. He qualified 16th and retired in 22nd after contact in 2011 for Andretti Autosport and qualified second with Dreyer & Reinbold Racing in 2010 and finished ninth. He is looking forward to getting back behind the wheel of an Indy car for the first time since the 2012 Baltimore street race where he qualified second, started 12th after a 10-spot grid penalty and finished 16th.
“It will be the first time in an IndyCar since September so I’m looking forward to getting back in,” said Conway. “It’s been about five months and it feels like it’s flown by really. I’m looking forward to blowing out the cob webs and getting a good feel for what the Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing car is like. And I’m also looking forward to start working with the team and engineers. It should be fun. Barber is a good circuit for me so hopefully I can bring some things to the table and help out when I can. I enjoy the fitness part so I have been keeping that up. I have been doing lots of cycling and mountain biking over the winter, and just generally keeping fit. Driving wise, I did a few bits before Christmas and some little bits after so driving wise I should be sharp. I think training keeps you sharp as well but you can’t beat seat time. It’s been a long time coming. I can’t wait to get back in the car.”
TECHNICAL DIRECTOR JAY O’CONNELL ON THE MANY CHANGES SINCE 2012
Since the conclusion of the 2012 season, the team has rebuilt the two race cars they utilized in 2012 as well as added three new ones. In addition the Indy car team has doubled in size to accommodate two fulltime entries and a third at Long Beach. The Barber Open Test will be the first time for the team to have “all hands on deck” at a track.
"We are all looking forward to the Barber test as we expand our IndyCar program to two full time cars this season,” said O’Connell. “We have new engineers and mechanics, new equipment, new cars, and of course new drivers that will all be working together at the test to prepare for St. Petersburg just a few weeks away. We cannot wait to get started!"