Rahal team begins 2008 preparations

The Rahal Letterman Racing IndyCar squad went Christmas shopping today in Sonoma, California, trying to find that combination of speed and handling that will help bring the gift of victory in 2008.

The team’s #17 Ethanol Dallara/Honda/Firestone hit the track at Infineon Raceway today as the team got a full day’s work in, rebounding after yesterday’s opening day of the test was cancelled by rain. Reigning IndyCar Series’ Rookie of the Year Ryan Hunter-Reay got a jump on his preparation as well, piloting the RLR Indy Car through more than 200 miles of action today without a single problem.

The Rahal Letterman Racing squad made up for the loss of yesterday’s track time, working through a myriad of car changes during short and lung runs, spending nearly the entire day going through changes on the car, including brakes, suspension, weight distribution, shocks and wings. The list of changes and new parts that the squad wanted to try was so extensive that the Ethanol-sponsored car didn’t make a full-on assault on the stopwatch until the last two runs of the day and still broke the into the 77-second range on the new Infineon track configuration.

“We came out here with a lot on our plate but the guys really worked hard today and we got a lot of things done on the car and made a lot of gains," said Hunter-Reay. “We only tuned our car to the track during the last two runs and still got down into the 77s at the end of the day, which I am pleased with."

The team traveled nearly 2,000 miles from their snowy Columbus homes for the first test of the 2008 IndyCar preseason, sharing the 2.236-mile Infineon track with cars from Target Chip Ganassi Racing. Ryan competed at Infineon last year for the first time in his career, qualifying in the top ten but retiring early after contact with Marco Andretti.

The weather conditions over the two days gave the Ohio-based crew some feelings of home as the temperatures hovered in the 40s throughout the two days, with yesterday’s rain testing the team’s mettle in their first outing of the season. The team posted a best time of 77.98 seconds late in the day as Hunter-Reay worked on a track that featured some changes in the Turn Seven areas designed to offer more passing opportunities for the Indy Cars.

“We feel pretty good about what we were able to get done, given what we had in front of us," said RLR IndyCar Team Manager Steve Dickson. “It was tough with the weather, but Ryan and the guys buckled down and got through it. We made a lot of good changes in some areas where we struggled last year, so we feel good."

The team will head back to Columbus over the weekend and will spend the rest of the time before the Holidays, working on changes in preparation for further preseason testing in 2008. The IndyCar Series will hold open test in Homestead and Sebring, Florida in 2008 in advance of the 2008 season opener, in St. Petersburg, Florida. Rahal Letterman Racing PR

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