Motegi: Rahal Letterman Racing Thursday notes

RAHAL LETTERMAN RACING KICKS OFF MOTEGI WEEKEND BY DODGING RAINDROPS MOTEGI, Japan- I wanna go out tonight/I wanna find out what I got - Bruce Springsteen The interminable airplane ride that took the IndyCar Series to Japan's Twin Ring...

RAHAL LETTERMAN RACING KICKS OFF MOTEGI WEEKEND BY DODGING RAINDROPS

MOTEGI, Japan- I wanna go out tonight/I wanna find out what I got - Bruce Springsteen

The interminable airplane ride that took the IndyCar Series to Japan's Twin Ring Motegi was not the last of the waiting for Ryan Hunter-Reay (#17 Ethanol Dallara/Honda/Firestone) and Rahal Letterman Racing as a good part of Thursday's practice session was spent in Pit Lane watching the rains fall.

But the weather did afford the teams more time than they were expecting on the first day of practice for this weekend's Indy Japan 300 as the all-day rains that had been forecasted held off long enough to allow for more than two hours of track time on the 1.5-mile Motegi oval. Hunter-Reay and RLR were able to complete the entire 90-minute opening session before a rain-spotted afternoon session limited the squad to just 45 laps in between yellow-flag stoppages for moisture.

The Ethanol machine steadily gained speed all through the first day, ending the afternoon with a best lap of 27.7585 seconds (197.129 mph) to wind up 13th in the 18-car field.

"We worked on a number of different things today and most of them paid off in better lap times," said Hunter-Reay. "We still have a good bit of work to do before qualifying, but I think that we can earn a decent starting spot, which will allow us to run up front during the race."

Hunter-Reay was just .51 seconds behind the frontrunning car of Tony Kanaan after the first day of the three-day event as all but two cars in the field were within three-quarters of a second of each other.

The teams will have another 90-minute practice session available to them tomorrow afternoon, with the green flag set to wave at 9:30 p.m. Eastern Time. The session will be the last before the four-lap qualifying procedure that will set the grid for Saturday's race, which gets underway at 12:30 a.m Friday morning. The new qualifying format uses the average speed of four laps around the Motegi oval as the IndyCar Series adopted the Indianapolis-style procedure on all of its ovals for 2008. The format was used at Homestead for the first time earlier this year, with Rahal Letterman Racing and Ryan Hunter-Reay taking the ninth spot on the grid.

"I really like the new qualifying format," Hunter-Reay related. "It keeps everybody honest in a way. You have be able to put up a series of good laps, not just set things up for one flying lap where a guy holds his breath for the whole thing and takes a chance. This gives a much better representation of what kind of car a team will have for race day."

-credit: rlr

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Series IndyCar
Drivers Ryan Hunter-Reay