Rahal Letterman Racing Ready For Its American Le Mans Series Debut HILLIARD, Ohio - Over the past several years Bobby Rahal has spoken openly about his desire to start an American Le Mans Series program and to return Rahal Letterman Racing, the...
Rahal Letterman Racing Ready For Its American Le Mans Series Debut
HILLIARD, Ohio - Over the past several years Bobby Rahal has spoken openly about his desire to start an American Le Mans Series program and to return Rahal Letterman Racing, the Hilliard, Ohio based race team he co-owns with television icon David Letterman, back to its road racing origins. This weekend, RLR will make its debut in the ALMS GT2 class with the No. 18 Bell Microproducts Porsche.
As a boy growing up in suburban Chicago Bobby Rahal dreamed about racing exotic European sports cars on the legendary race circuits of North America and Canada. Accompanying his father Mike Rahal, an amateur racer of some note, on weekends to historic venues like Road America, Watkins Glen and Mid Ohio, fueled Bobby's passion for road racing and sports cars. It is a passion he has never lost.
Last fall at the ALMS season finale at Laguna Seca Raceway, Rahal took the leap of faith announcing the formation of an ALMS GT2 program for RLR as a customer of Porsche Motorsports of North America. Noticeably absent from the original announcement was a driver duo or sponsor!
"We evaluated the opportunities to forge a factory relationship and to enter the LMP1 or LMP2 class, but without the right factory program we felt we would be doing a disservice to our newest program," said Rahal the 1987 Twelve Hours of Sebring winner. "The solution to me was simple. Buy our Porsche 911 GT3 RSR and enter to the ultra competitive GT2 program. The Porsche program is so good that you can enter the GT2 series for the first time and be competitive."
Rahal selected veteran drivers Ralf Kelleners and Tom Milner. Kelleners is the elder statesmen of the duo logging in at age 38 while Milner just turned 21. Don't be deceived by Milner's young age. As the son of PTG Motorsports President Tom Milner the youngster has spent his life around the track and brings a wealth of experience that surpasses the typical 21-year-old. In Kelleners RLR found a driver with a vast amount of endurance racing experience who can lead the fledgling program and serve as a mentor to Milner.
"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. "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 will set the tone for our program and they will certainly have a wealth of input in our on-track efforts in 2007. Nobody at RLR is underestimating the enormity of the task that competing in GT2 will comprise."
Shortly after announcing the driving duo the sponsorship was finalized when Bell Microproducts was announced as the primary partner for the Porsche GT2 program.
Bell Microproducts, of San Jose, California was founded in 1988 and has forged a position as one of the world's largest value-added distributors of storage and computing technology. Recognized world wide as an industry leader, Bell Microproducts celebrated a significant corporate milestone when it sold its 50 millionth hard disk drive in December of last year.
"I feel we have laid a strong foundation for our ALMS program and I anticipate this program will be a cornerstone of Rahal Letterman Racing for a long time to come," said Rahal. "To announce a partnership with a leading company the stature of Bell Microproducts would be a banner day for any organization, but when you take each of the program's elements and add them together I have a great sense of pride in what we have already accomplished."
The final piece of the puzzle came when Rahal tabbed his childhood friend and longtime right-hand man Jim Prescott to serve as the Team Manager for the ALMS program. Prescott served as Rahal's crew chief for 16 of his 17 CART seasons and recently ran the team's high profile Toyota Atlantic Championship program.
"Throughout this entire process I can't help but remember the feelings of my youth and my love affair with these cars as this program has been established," said a reminiscent Rahal. "It is fitting that we utilize the Porsche 911 GT3 RSR for this program since I have long and successful ties to Porsche. It has been a trip for me back to my formative years with the Elva-Porsche and later driving the Porsche 935 to victory at Daytona 24 Hours and the Porsche 962 at the Twelve Hours of Sebring. I only hope that our program can enjoy success of that nature."
Graham Rahal ready for Sebring run
Graham Rahal, the 18-year-old son of co-owner Bobby Rahal will drive for the team as the third driver at the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring this week. Rahal will join RLR's duo of Ralf Kelleners and Tom Milner to comprise the driving trio for the team's first race in the American Le Mans Series GT2 class.
Graham Rahal, who is considered by many in the media to be one of the brightest young prospects in all of racing, will make his second start at Sebring having raced last season for Alex Job Racing in the GT2 class. Rahal enjoyed a breakout season in 2006 taking second in the Champ Car Atlantic Championship and leading the series in wins (5) and pole positions (4) and leading nearly 40% of the laps he ran.
"For me this is a great event because both my grandfather and father have won the race, said Rahal. "Endurance racing is something I truly love and the fan support and the excitement surrounding this event is amazing. I also am proud to be a part of the team again and hopefully we can grab a victory to start the RLR ALMS history off on the right foot. Tom [Milner] was always a great competitor and lots of fun to be around in BMW. I am looking forward to partnering with both Ralf [Kelleners] and Tom and having a competitive weekend."
MILNER AND KELLENERS FORM FOUNDATION OF 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. Rahal paired veteran drivers Ralf Kelleners and Tom Milner to forge the foundation of his first year team.
Kelleners, a 38-year-old native of Dinslaken, Germany, has professional sports car experience dating back to the early 90s 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.
"It's exciting to be back in a Porsche with a team in Rahal Letterman that brings such a prestigious name to GT racing," said Kelleners. "As a team we all have a steep learning curve to adapt to a new series, new car and kind of racing. We will have to be very good to be able to compete with the teams that have been around for a long time. I think everyone knows it is going to be a tough fight.
Milner, a 20-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 and around the family business of racing.
"I'm really excited to finally be here at Sebring for the start of the season," said Milner. "Obviously, this is a special race for RLR as it's their first sports car race. As a new team, Sebring is probably the last race you want to be your first but everyone at RLR hasn't underestimated the challenge. They've worked hard to be prepared for the race and I think that will show on Saturday. 2007 brings a whole new challenge to the race with a huge list of GT2 cars all capable of winning the race. Everyone has stepped up their game and it's going to take a flawless race to win. I'm up for the challenge; I know the team is up for it; and I know my two co-drivers Ralf and Graham are up for it. I can't wait for the race to start."
"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. "We had a lot of interest in these opportunities from drivers in ALMS and from other series. 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 will set the tone for our program and they will certainly have a wealth of input in our on-track efforts in 2007. Nobody at RLR is underestimating the enormity of the task that competing in GT2 will comprise."