Bobby Rahal has reiterated that he would like to expand his IndyCar team next year, but says the theory that two car teams are much more economical than one is very wide of the mark.
Rahal has traditionally run a one-car team, with expansions to two cars for select races including the Indianapolis 500. The exception to this in recent years was 2013, when he had two full-time entries for son Graham and James Jakes.
This year Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing has run the #15 for Graham Rahal full-time, with the #16 being added for three races for Spencer Pigot – part of the youngster’s Mazda Scholarship prize for winning the 2015 Indy Lights championship.
However, Rahal Sr. was blunt when he told Motorsport.com what it would take to make the #16 car a full-season entry once more.
“We can only have a second car if a) we have the money and b) if it contributes to the overall progress of the team.
“Now as far as the money goes, it’s always been a bit of myth that on economies of scale, a two-car team is better value than a one-car. It’s not. To run a one-car team well is $8m and to run a second car, it’s another $7m.
“Think about it. If you’re gonna do it properly, there is very little you can double up on. Two times as many wheels, two times as many engine leases, two times as many chassis and aerokits, and two times as many personnel in almost all the roles.
“What areas can you make do with what you’ve got already? Well… the race shop, the team manager and the receptionist – and that’s about it! The rest all has to be added to if you want to do it right. And ultimately, doing it right is what we care about, otherwise there’s no point.”
Driver selection process
On the subject of getting a driver that, in the words of Rahal Sr., “contributes to the overall progress of the team,” he insisted that he would only look at experienced IndyCar racers from now on.
“If we run a second car – and we do want to – it’s going to be someone who can make the team better, who has the knowledge and experience, rather than a young man that we’re training. This year with Spencer, he was just learning, not contributing. That’s not his fault; he’s at the very start of his IndyCar career. But we’ve learned from that and won’t do it again.
“In 2015, when we added Oriol Servia just for the Indy 500, we finished fifth with Graham – first Honda home. And I have no doubts that Oriol was a big part of that result.
“So we need someone who pushes Graham, as much as anything else. We don’t want a yes man, or a seat-filler – we want someone who pushes the envelope. So our first desire is to find the money independently of the driver because then we can hire who we want to hire, based purely on talent.”
Asked what his cut-off point was for team expansion, Rahal said: “Deadline-wise, I’d say February is the cut-off because by the time the testing really gets underway, you want people already acclimated to the team.
“But to be honest, harder than finding the driver, the engineer or even the money is finding a good crew. The longer you go in the off-season, the tougher it is. So maybe if you think a two-car team is a strong possibility, you make your move for crew guys before February so that you don’t find all the good ones have been grabbed already.”
Graham still wants a teammate
Although Rahal Jr., like his father, enjoys having the focus of the whole team on his car in a one-car team, and won the frantic battle for victory at Texas Motor Speedway last month, he told Motorsport.com that he recognizes the single-car structure’s limitations.
“It’s a double-edged sword, if I’m honest,” said Graham. “You know, my Dad has pointed out that he won all three of his Indy car championships and the Indy 500 as the driver on a one-car team.
“But then you look at Penske and Ganassi and the other guys we’re competing against, and you go to a test day and they’ve got four cars supplying four lots of data. That’s what we’re continually competing against.
“It makes my life tough, makes my engineer’s life tough, makes the whole team’s life tough. Because the pressure’s still on; we’re expected to do just as well, but with a lot less. We’re expected by fans and by sponsors, to compete with them.
“I think my guys have done a good job to ignore that pressure to this point. But they have to be feeling the weight of expectation.
“It would be good to have a second car, just to try more setups and stuff during each session. We’d get so much more done in the timeframe.
“But if we can’t, we can’t, and we won’t use that as an excuse for why we can’t improve and run with the best of them next year. I will always expect that of myself and my guys.”
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