Graham Rahal is undaunted with the physicality of Phoenix International Raceway, but says downforce levels for the race should be governed by how well the cars can run in close proximity.
In the first two hours of practice for the Verizon IndyCar Series, the cars have largely been running on their own, and so Rahal admits he’s uncertain what the current downforce level is like when in traffic. However, he believes it is that aspect of the aero package that should govern how the downforce levels are set for the April 2 race.
Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing’s only fulltime driver told Motorsport.com: “I ran behind [Conor] Daly briefly and it was OK, but it was very tricky. I was able to follow but we’ll have to wait and see what happens when there’s a bunch of us and a lot of dirty air.
“From what I understand, [Team] Penske guys gave their opinions after they tested here, and that’s why we’re at this level of downforce – a rule change came along. But now we’re all here, we might find we have to modify it a bit.”
Asked if he would be prepared to race a downforce package he hadn’t tried, should the series make major aero changes between this test and the race, Rahal replied: “Sure – same for everybody, right?
“I’m not going to be one of those drivers who sits and complains about everything. If it’s the same for all of us and we’re dealt the same cards, it’s up to us to make the most of it.”
Confidence in Pappas
Rahal, who endured a difficult relationship with IndyCar’s new vp of competition Bill Pappas when Pappas was his race engineer at RLLR in 2014, nonetheless is enthusiastic about his former colleague’s new appointment.
“I think Bill is ideal for the job,” he commented. “One, he’s passionate about this sport, but two, he’s also black and white, and that’s what you need to be in that job. You can’t be pushed around by all the teams. The series must set the rules and the teams must follow.
“So I think Bill will be very receptive to any input we give, and hopefully we’ll find a proper downforce level to make the racing really good.”
Regarding the high-Gs that have caused concern among certain teams and drivers, Rahal said: “This place is very physical and tricky, for sure. It’s going to be tough and a lot of drivers are going to get worn out pretty quickly.
“We’re going to have to pull some castor from the steering wheel for sure, because if we run full castor like I do on short ovals normally, I don’t think there would be any way to steer the thing by the end of the race.
“But again, it’s the same for everybody.”