Rahal and RLL overcome on day 1 in St. Petersburg

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ST. PETERSBURG, FLA. – For Graham Rahal and the Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing team, Friday at St. Petersburg was a rousing success.

Second place in practice, and a trouble-free day considering the transporter fire that altered the game plan this week, was quite an end result for the driver of the No. 15 National Guard Honda.

“We weren’t planning on using (this transporter) until Long Beach,” Rahal told the assembled media after practice. “You can still smell the smoke at the truck, even though this one wasn’t affected.”

The transporter is a backup but the No. 15 car is still the primary chassis, and Rahal said he just feels in a rhythm at this track.

Additionally, he was pleased with how much the Honda twin-turbo engine has come just since the Barber Motorsports Park test two weeks ago.

“For some reason, I felt at Barber that we lacked something,” Rahal said. “But today, the engine felt totally different than it did two weeks ago. The thing is, we’ll get stronger.”

The team nearly had Oriol Servia, its second driver for the next four races, in a car this weekend. But some lucky last-minute intuition from the boss, Bobby Rahal, was a nice saving grace considering what happened.

“Oriol wanted to, and it was close… but dad said, ‘Something’s telling me we need to wait,'” said the younger Rahal. “He’s still in on debriefs, has the headset on. He’s watching every minute. He’s still the guy.”

Servia makes his season debut next race at Long Beach. Meanwhile for Graham and the rest of the RLL crew, who did well on the first day of the season, it’s onto practice 3 and qualifying on Saturday.

SMP Racing unveils BR1 LMP1 car in Bahrain ahead of WEC entry

SMP Racing
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SMP Racing has publicly unveiled its new BR1 LMP1 car that will enter the FIA World Endurance Championship from 2018.

SMP Racing opted to pull out of racing full-time in the WEC for 2017 in order to focus on its preparations for an LMP1 entry the following year, with the decision being taken long in advance of Porsche’s exit announcement.

Officials from the Russian-backed SMP Racing, as well as drivers including recent IndyCar racer Mikhail Aleshin (sporting a broken arm in a sling), Vitaly Petrov and Sergey Sirotkin were all on hand to unveil the car on Friday in the Bahrain International Circuit paddock ahead of this weekend’s WEC finale.

The BR Engineering BR1 features a Dallara chassis and an AER engine, and has completed over 2,000 km in private testing, with further running set to be completed in the coming weeks.

SMP Racing plans to field two cars in the WEC’s LMP1 class next year, and is keen to get as many Russian drivers as possible in the seats from its wide pool of talent.

Even with Porsche’s departure from LMP1, the class is set to feature a bigger field thanks to the increased number of privateers moving up, with Toyota set to remain the sole manufacturer in the class.