Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing-Honda can beat the best opposition in IndyCar, according to Graham Rahal, who has scored five wins over the past three seasons despite running on a one-car team for the majority of those races.
This year, the 29-year-old from Columbus, OH, has been joined by defending Indy 500 winner Takuma Sato, and the son of three-time IndyCar champion Bobby Rahal says that the partnership should work well.
He told Motorsport.com: “So far there have been areas where Takuma and I overlap, and areas where we aren’t bothered by the same things. But in general I’d say the overlap is enough to see that having a teammate will be very beneficial.
“I’ve no doubt that it is going to be a strong year for us at Indy. I mean, we were running ahead of Takuma and Helio at Indy last year on the same strategy when I got a puncture. For some reason, we still get overlooked sometimes, and that was one of those times – we were strong.
“But I think we should be pretty strong again. If we get a third car [rumored to be for Oriol Servia], then yes, that will help us all as a group take on Penske and Andretti – that’s what we’re here to do. Of course it’s hard to beat them but I don’t see any reason to believe we can’t. Like I say, I believe we had a good chance of doing that last year until we got a flat tire.”
Rahal stated in the strongest terms that championship-wise, he is equally confident that RLLR can emerge ahead of Team Penske, whose drivers have earned three of the last four IndyCar titles.
“I have zero doubt in my mind that this team is capable of winning the championship,” said Rahal. “I don’t even consider the idea that we couldn’t. Ultimately what makes champions is the personnel and in my opinion we have the best.
“It’s all about working together and having a good cohesive group, with strengths in a wide variety of areas, and I think we have that.”
Rahal said RLLR was making strides with learning the 2018 car equipped with the universal aerokit, despite having far fewer testing miles than some of its strongest rivals, and said that Sebring lap times weren’t much of a gauge.
“I feel good about what we’ve got going; I think we’re figuring out this car,” he said. “It’s a little bit up for debate and you’re right, we haven’t had a lot of days on track. But you can’t read anything into lap times at Sebring – that would be foolish. There’s so much temperature variation, we’ve had sportscars running at Sebring laying down a lot of rubber, and so on. It’s only going to be at St. Pete when we have a real picture of where everyone’s at."
Testing new Firestone streetcourse compounds
Rahal is not team testing until tomorrow (Wednesday), but on Monday, he and AJ Foyt Racing’s Tony Kanaan tried several potential new streetcourse tire compounds for Firestone. As Cara Adams explained to Motorsport.com last week, these may be introduced as soon as Toronto in July, the last street course race on the IndyCar schedule, or they may get held over until 2019.
Said Rahal, “Obviously I can’t go into too much detail, but yeah, it was a solid day of testing for Firestone to see what they might want to run in the future. We turned 160 laps or something, which is a lot around here. And we found some decent stuff and some not so decent stuff. We tried all directions and Tony and I had similar comments on each of the compounds.
“We definitely need a softer tire than the last few years because we have so much less downforce. We didn’t try any alternates, but I tried a set of tires that I’m told would be quite close to what we’ll run in qualifying at St. Pete, and it changed the balance of the car considerably. So it’s going to be interesting to see how everyone copes with that kinda thing next week. I think it’s going to be a regular battle for all the teams trying to stay on top of that, keeping the balance.
“Track temperatures are going to make a lot of difference to this car as well. As it cools off, that really helps this car on a street course, although that wasn’t true on the oval at Phoenix.”