GRAHAM RAHAL COMPLETES FIRST DAY OF TESTING NEWMAN/HAAS RACING'S CHAMP CAR AT SEBRING INTERNATIONAL RACEWAY SEBRING, Fla. (September 13, 2006) -- Champ Car Atlantic driver Graham Rahal, 17, completed the first of a two-day test in a Newman/Haas...
GRAHAM RAHAL COMPLETES FIRST DAY OF TESTING NEWMAN/HAAS RACING'S CHAMP CAR AT SEBRING INTERNATIONAL RACEWAY
SEBRING, Fla. (September 13, 2006) -- Champ Car Atlantic driver Graham Rahal, 17, completed the first of a two-day test in a Newman/Haas Racing (NHR)-prepared Champ Car at Sebring International Raceway today. Rahal got behind the wheel of a Champ Car for the first time and ran approx. 195 miles during the day while piloting three-time championship runner up Bruno Junqueira's No. 2 Hole in the Wall Camps Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone race car around the 1.65-mile course with a best lap time of 52.4 seconds.
"It's an honor to drive this car," said Rahal who resided in New Albany, Ohio. "My dad always told me it was his dream to drive a car for Mr. Newman and Mr. Haas and now I've got a leg up on him. It's a family environment at Newman/Haas Racing; everyone made me feel at home. If I can do the job I hope to drive for the team next year."
Rahal currently drives the #18 Gehl Company entry for Mi-Jack Conquest Racing in the Champ Car Atlantic Championship. With one race to go in the championship he has already locked up at least asecond-place finish in the season standings after having won a series-highfive of 11 races and he is only 12 points behind series leader Simon Pagenaud (253-241) with the season finale set to take place in Elkhart Lake, Wis. on September 24.
"The biggest difference is the power and straightaway speed," said Rahal of the difference between an Atlantic car and a Champ Car. "It was pretty interesting coming out of the pits with this power. The car is 30 mph faster down the back straight but other than that it's fairly similar. I have two days to go out there and see what I can do. You can't put too much pressure on yourself or you break. Especially with a team like this which is the best. I'm pretty satisfied with my lap times today but I need to pick up speed tomorrow. I want to do well but at the same time I can't expect to be as quick as Sebastien and Bruno, I have to build up to it. They have a lot of experience and a lot of miles in these cars. I'm going to just keep my head down and stay focused."
Rahal quickly reacquainted himself with the race course today after having competed on the long course in the Star Mazda series in 2005 where he finished third and in the 2006 12 Hours of Sebring where he finished sixth in the GT2 class. During the day Rahal and NHR shared track time with the new Panoz DP01 Champ Car driven by Roberto Moreno and were able to accomplish their goals for the day.
"It was a nice, straightforward test today," said Brian Lisles, general manager of Newman/Haas Racing. "Graham didn't make any mistakes and did everything we could have hoped for. Now we understand what he needs from the car and we can work on improving tomorrow."
McDonald's driver and two-time Champ Car champion Sebastien Bourdais was on hand during the afternoon to observe the test which will continue tomorrow morning.