Graham Rahal believes the layout of the Long Beach track will accentuate the qualities of the IndyCar aerokit and that that the increased terminal speeds will enhance the racing.
Rahal, who finished second in the season-opener at St. Petersburg despite starting at the rear of the grid, said that the new bodywork’s drag reduction and the tire degradation should result in an entertaining event.
“I think that with the universal aero kit, the Indy cars are going to be way quicker on the straightaways and I think Long Beach is going to highlight that,” said Rahal. “I’m excited about getting on track in the Total Honda and showing that and I think the fans are really going to enjoy it.
“I think it’s going to be great for passing on the front straight and other places, and I also think that with the tire degradation that we saw at St. Pete, and having a similar tire in Long Beach, it should make the racing really, really interesting.”
His Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing-Honda teammate Takuma Sato added a note of caution however.
“The race will be exciting for sure but if there was a concern I have, then it will be tire marbles off line which was a lot in the opening race,” he said. “The car slides more due to low downforce and that makes more marbles but hopefully the combination at Long Beach gives a better outcome.”
Rahal’s best result at Long Beach was second place in 2013, emulating his father and team co-owner Bobby Rahal who scored four runner-up positions here. Graham believes that in the month since the season-opener in St. Petersburg, RLLR has made progress on its temporary track setups.
“I think we should be competitive at Long Beach,” he said. “I have high hopes and expectations as I always do. St. Pete wasn’t the best for us so from a street course perspective, I think we have some work to be done but I also know that Tom [German, race engineer] and everyone are working hard to find a solution to make the cars perform more competitively than we did in St. Pete.
“I feel like a lot of the teams are performing at their best. I’m not sure that we are yet but we will keep plugging away. The guys are putting a lot of effort in. The crew did an amazing job with their pit stops in Phoenix, I was really proud of them. We just have to keep that up.”
Last year’s Indy 500 winner Takuma Sato has scored just one other IndyCar win – in 2013 at Long Beach, driving for AJ Foyt Racing, and is happy to return to the venue for his ninth visit, and the track’s 44th grand prix.
“Long Beach is everyone’s favorite! It’s so special,” said Sato. “It has a lot of history, a great location, food and atmosphere. It’s so gorgeous and a lot of fun both on track and off track.
“I am really lucky to win two of the top races in the series but of course I want to add more! People really enjoy the event and so do I – especially winning the 2013 race which was so special for me and makes me very happy thinking about that race.
“I was at AJ Foyt’s team back then but shared the podium with my current teammate Graham so I would love to repeat that this year too.”