RESURGENT RAHAL LETTERMAN RACING ALMS SQUAD SEEKS FIRST SERIES VICTORY HILLIARD, Ohio - The first-year Rahal Letterman Racing American Le Mans Series team will welcome some home cooking this weekend as the blossoming squad heads to the Mid-Ohio...
RESURGENT RAHAL LETTERMAN RACING ALMS SQUAD SEEKS FIRST SERIES VICTORY
HILLIARD, Ohio - The first-year Rahal Letterman Racing American Le Mans Series team will welcome some home cooking this weekend as the blossoming squad heads to the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course looking to continue the recent successes that has propelled the team's GT2 Porsche into the top-five in the season standings.
This weekend's Acura Sports Car Challenge will provide the Central Ohio-based team with its first opportunity to impress the locals since developing its new sports-car program, as the driving tandem of Ralf Kelleners and Tom Milner will look to tame the 13-turn, 2.25-mile road course that rises from the corn fields of Lexington, Ohio.
The freshman ALMS effort has hit its stride over the last month and has posted season-best finishes in each of the last two races, while moving into the top-five in the series point standings.
That run was capped two weeks ago as Milner and Kelleners piloted the RLR Porsche 911 GT3 RSR to its first podium berth, running second at Lime Rock Park. The strong finish highlighted a three-race stretch that saw the BellMicro-sponsored Porsche score the second-most points of any team in its class, earning 25 of its 40 points in those three races--second only to the class-leading Porsche of Jorg Bermeister and Johannes van Overbeek.
This weekend's jaunt to Mid-Ohio will provide a bit of a role reversal for the RLR squad as the veteran Kelleners may be taking a few tips from his younger teammate about getting around the challenging Mid-Ohio layout. Despite having more than a decade's worth of experience in sports cars, Kelleners last competed in ALMS competition at Mid-Ohio in 2004, which marked his only series visit to the track Les Richter built. Milner also has but one ALMS race under his belt in Lexington, but it came last year as he paired with Gunnar Jeannette in GT2 competition.
"I'm really looking forward to Mid-Ohio," Milner said. "We had a really positive test there, where we made really positive steps with the car. It's great to get that first podium of the season but we'll have to work hard to do one better this week. It is a big race for the team and for the whole organization, given the team's history at this track, and we will do everything we can to enhance Rahal Letterman Racing's legacy at Mid-Ohio."
Kelleners did well in his lone ALMS appearance at Mid-Ohio, running up front for the first half of the race in the Risi Competizione Ferrari, but was felled by an engine failure. Milner suffered a similar fate last season, completing just 57 laps before an electrical problem ended his day. The team did benefit from an open-test session at Mid-Ohio earlier in the month and expects to reap the rewards from that effort this week.
"That second-place run in Lime Rock came at just the right time for us," Kelleners said. "Now we just need to carry that momentum to Mid-Ohio and keep climbing. I think that we have done about as much as we can to be ready for this race. The testing we did was very positive and I believe the entire team is really poised for a big weekend if we can get a little racing luck."
This weekend's race takes place on Saturday afternoon beginning at 3:15 p.m. Eastern Time. The race length is 2 hours and forty-five minutes. The race can be seen on a tape-delayed basis on Sunday, July 22 at 2 p.m. ET on CBS.
Milner and Kelleners form foundation for first-year RLR GT2 program
A first-year program leans heavily on the experience of its people and RLR's ALMS Porsche GT2 program is no different. One of the key components for Bobby Rahal in assembling this team was to find drivers who had experience in the ALMS and in the GT2 program. His meticulous search paid dividends when Rahal was able to pair veteran driver Ralf Kelleners with up-and-coming driving talent Tom Milner to forge the foundation of the team.
Kelleners, a 38-year-old native of Dinslaken, Germany, has professional sports car experience dating back nearly two decades and has driven factory entries at Le Mans for Porsche and Toyota and for Ferrari at Sebring and Daytona. Last season he split his season between ALMS for Ferrari (3rd at Sebring), a one-off run in Grand-Am and a run in the 24 Hours of Nurburgring for BMW in Germany. Kelleners is a second-generation driver whose father Helmut was a three-time European Touring Car champion.
Milner, a 21-year-old native of Washington, Virginia, joins RLR with two full seasons of sports car experience, including last season in the ALMS GT2 series when he drove for Multimatic Motorsports and posted nine top-ten results in ten races. Milner is the son of Team PTG owner, Tom Milner and has spent his entire life in racing.
"In Ralf and Tom I think we have found a combination of experience and potential that will serve as an excellent foundation for our Porsche GT2 entry," said Rahal Letterman co-owner Bobby Rahal. "I feel strongly that in a first-year program it is important to have a level of familiarity in the program with the series and the competitors. Our drivers set the tone for our program and they will have a wealth of input in our on-track efforts in 2007."
Rahal Letterman Racing Notes:
The duo of Milner and Kelleners continues to climb the results page, having posted season-best finishes in each of the last two starts--topped by a podium run in Lime Rock. The team's sixth-place run in its inaugural race at Sebring was the second-best ever for a RLR team in its series debut. Danica Patrick finished third in the inaugural race for the team's Atlantic program at Monterrey, Mexico in 2003. Bobby Rahal, in addition to being a Hall of Fame open-wheel driver also won the 24 Hours of Daytona in 1981 and the 1987 Twelve Hours of Sebring. Rahal won both of those events while driving a Porsche. Rahal Letterman Racing has a long and distinguished history at Mid-Ohio, but this will be the team's first sports-car event at the Lexington layout. RLR's history at Mid-Ohio includes Champ Car wins in 1985 and '86 for Bobby Rahal, a pole in 1997 with Bryan Herta and the last of Bobby's 88 series podium finishes, which came with a third-place run in 1998. Graham Rahal has also had success there, winning the SCCA Formula Atlantic National Championship in 2005.