Jourdain returns to Indy with RLL once again

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Michel Jourdain Jr. will make his second straight Indianapolis 500 start with Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing. He’ll run the No. 17 Office Depot Mexico/Grupo Indi/Grupo Multi Honda for what would be his third start in the race (1996 was his first).

Jourdain’s first Indianapolis start in 16 years, a year ago, ended in 19th and team co-owner Bobby Rahal said it could have been better but for a bad pit stop.

“I think that last year for his first race back after a number of years out of an Indy car, he did a very good job,” said Rahal. “We made a bad pit call last year and let him down frankly which put him a lap down.

“He quickly got with the program at Indy and was running competitively in the race and I think that one year later most of the rust is off and he will be much more prepared because he knows what to expect. From a car standpoint, we should be even more competitive than we were last year so I am really pleased to have Michel back. He is a great young guy and it’s a pleasure to have him, Office Depot Mexico, Grupo Indi and Grupo Multi back. It should be a good event for everybody.”

Jourdain noted RLL’s pace with his then-teammate Takuma Sato a year ago, and with experience both in this car and working with the same engineer in Bruno Couprie, his month should improve.

“It has been a year since I have been in the car but I will take the same strategy as last year and build up speed little by little,” said Jourdain. “We have good confidence because we ran pretty well last year, especially Takuma (Sato). I’m sure the car will be really good and with it being a three car team we should be able to progress much faster.”

Jourdain’s announcement brings the number of confirmed car and driver combinations to 30.

Position of F1 start lights altered to compensate for safety halo

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MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — The position of start lights will be altered on Formula One tracks this season, in a bid to ensure the drivers’ line of vision is not impeded by the controversial halo protection device.

The halo is a titanium structure introduced this year in a bid to ramp up driver safety, forming a ring around the cockpit top. It is designed to protect the drivers’ head from loose debris and offer better safety during eventual collisions.

Although drivers largely understand the need for it, very few like it. They are worried it impedes visibility, it looks ugly and also that fans will no longer be able to identify a driver properly from his race helmet. Drivers also take longer to climb in and out of their cars.

Formula One’s governing body has addressed concerns and asked every circuit “to make the lights at a standard height above the track,” FIA race director Charlie Whiting said.

“Pole position seems to be the worst case scenario with the halo,” Whiting added at the season-opening Australian GP. “Maybe the driver can’t quite see the lights, or see only half of them, and he might have to move his head too much.”

The new start lights were positioned lower for Friday’s first two practice sessions at Albert Park. Drivers were also allowed the rare chance to rehearse grid starts at the end of both sessions.

“We haven’t normally allowed practice starts on the grid here because it’s quite a tight timetable,” Whiting said. “What I thought would be a good idea was to give the driver sight of those lights, rather than for the first time on Sunday evening.”

A repeat set of lights has been moved from its usual position halfway up the grid to a more convenient position to the left.

“Those repeat lights were normally halfway up the grid, and they were fitted round about 2009, when the rear wings became higher on the cars,” Whiting said. “But now the wings have been lowered, there’s no need for those halfway up the grid.”