Team Rahal Wraps Up Preseason Testing And Prepares For Cart Season Opener HILLIARD, OH . . .CART franchise member Team Rahal wrapped up a highly successful 2002 preseason testing schedule with three days on track last week (2/20-2/22) on the...
Team Rahal Wraps Up Preseason Testing And Prepares For Cart Season Opener
HILLIARD, OH . . .CART franchise member Team Rahal wrapped up a highly successful 2002 preseason testing schedule with three days on track last week (2/20-2/22) on the road course at Miami/Homestead Speedway. Team Rahal serves as the factory Ford team so drivers Jimmy Vasser and Michel Jourdain Jr. spent considerable time working with Ford-Cosworth's technical people fine-tuning the recently sanctioned traction control for the 2002 XF engine. The two Rahal drivers logged nearly a thousand miles as the team finalized its preparations for the 2002 CART FedEx Championship Series opener that is less than two weeks away in Monterrey, Mexico (March 8-10).
"Coming out of the final test I think our team is focused and ready for Monterrey, Mexico," said Bobby Rahal, Team Rahal owner. "Considering that we have two new drivers and new faces in engineering and on the pit crews, I fully expected that we might be further behind at this point, but everyone has worked very hard and this team has come together very quickly. When I walk through the shop there is a sense that we have some unfinished business from last season. The hunger that is evident on the faces of everyone at the team reflects the focus of this team on winning the CART championship."
In 2001 Team Rahal led the CART FedEx Championship Series in wins (6) and laps led (843) and captured seven pole positions, all Team Rahal records. However the biggest prize, the Vanderbilt Cup and the CART championship, eluded the team as drivers Kenny Brack and Max Papis finished second and sixth respectively in the championship.
Shell driver Jimmy Vasser, considered a preseason favorite to contend for the CART championship, logged the fastest laps at the test on the first two days and the second fastest lap on the final day.
"You always want to be quick and near the top of the speed charts but you can't lose sight of the big picture," said Vasser, the 1996 CART champion. "What is so encouraging to me is that we never went looking for speed this winter but it was always there. We approached each test with a laundry list of things we wanted to accomplish and we stayed on course learning about the capabilities of this Lola/Ford package and what we can bring to the track."
In just his second test with Team Rahal, Gigante driver Michel Jourdain Jr. ran among the top-five on both days he tested. Jourdain's time in the car has been limited since the Gigante sponsorship for the second Team Rahal car wasn't finalized until a few weeks ago. The 25-year-old native of Mexico City has kept himself busy with conditioning work in between the tests at Laguna Seca and Homestead.
"For having missed as much of winter testing as I did, I am pretty happy with where we are at this point," said Jourdain. "I have really clicked with my engineers Ray Leto and Tim Reiter and having a veteran teammate like Jimmy has been very beneficial. What has really impressed me is the free flow of information between the two teams. We are able to cover a lot more ground in testing because we are working together. The whole experience here at Team Rahal has been a dream come true. I know we are going to be competitive at Monterrey and I think as the season progresses and we become more familiar with each other we will be even better."
Team Rahal is a franchise member of Championship Auto Racing Teams (CART). Headquartered in Hilliard, Ohio, the team owned by three-time CART Champion Bobby Rahal and CBS LATE SHOW host David Letterman, currently fields a pair of Championship Cars for 1996 CART champion Jimmy Vasser and Michel Jourdain Jr. in the CART FedEx Championship Series and an entry for Vasser in the Indianapolis 500. The 65-member team enjoys primary sponsorship from the Shell Oil Company and the Gigante Group in CART and the Miller Brewing Company for the Indy 500.