Graham Rahal says that testing at Sebring fooled the Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing team and that despite second in the 2018 IndyCar series-opener at St. Petersburg, he doesn’t know where the team stands relative to its rivals.
Rahal finished second in the race despite starting last on the grid and then dropping back to the rear again on lap eight of the 110 after he collided with Ed Carpenter Racing’s Spencer Pigot on a restart at Turn 1.
But despite a strong result, Rahal struggled throughout practice and qualifying, and admits RLLR’s Sebring testing performance had led the team astray. Sebring’s bumps mean that is by far the closest permanent course on which to practice street course setups, but the rapidness with which it gains grip can also trick the unwary.
Said Rahal: “Obviously we kind of worked the car probably a little bit too much and tuned it a little bit too much to what suited some of the testing tracks versus what was going to suit here,” said Rahal.
“Even though the tire was the same – it was what we used at Sebring – the grip level there is obviously higher and it completely fooled us, I would say. We're just going to have to rethink it a little bit. It's going to take some time. It's just been kind of tricky for us.
“So, having said that, I don't know exactly where we are competitively. I know that we're definitely not there, if you know what I mean. To be up front, we're going to have to find quite a bit.”
Team-mate and 2017 Indianapolis 500 winner Takuma Sato says the reduction in downforce is the trickiest aspect to assess.
“We just realized how much downforce was important last year, and now we have to work quite hard,” he said.
“But I think everybody is in the same boat and same game, and I think Graham and I are finding bits and pieces of the positive side.”
Rahal is racing at Sebring (long course) this weekend in his second IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship outing with the Penske Acura team. He shares the #7 car with full-timers Helio Castroneves and Ricky Taylor.