IndyCar: Rahal focusing on personnel, team chemistry rather than second car

2 Comments

INDIANAPOLIS – Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing is hoping a single-car focus, looking more at personnel enhancements, will serve them best in the 2015 Verizon IndyCar Series season.

As driver Graham Rahal indicated during Tuesday’s INDYCAR Media Day at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, he and the team don’t want to add a second car merely to have a second car.

“I think there’s a plus and minus,” Rahal said. “I will say this.  We started to find a good amount of speed out of the car at the test we’ve been at. The most important thing is that the team has worked extremely well together. That’s what we learned last year wasn’t the case.

“I think we’re pretty cautious about throwing a second car in there and maybe disrupting that,” he added. “We don’t have the finances together to run a second car yet.  We have had a lot of people come to us about it.

“But I think for us to have one team that works extremely well, together with the engineering staff that we have, all the damper work, everything else that we’re doing, we’ll be fine.”

Rahal was teammates with James Jakes in 2013 for the full season. Last year, a second car ran in eight races, four apiece with Oriol Servia and Luca Filippi.

Right now, RLL is one of just two single-car operations on the grid, along with fellow Honda-powered squad Bryan Herta Autosport.

“Sure, it’s going to put a little extra load on our backs. It is a little more difficult at times,” he said.

“As James (Hinchcliffe) said, if you have two guys that work well together, two engineers that work well together, the team is in unison, that’s one thing. But to throw somebody in there, not give it 110 percent, I think that becomes a little bit of a problem.

“Dad was in town last night. We kind of talked about it a little bit because we had a couple people call yesterday. I think we’re very cautious about that. We made a big hire the other day who will be announced soon. We spent a lot of time this offseason trying to put the right people together, which is what we didn’t do in the past.

“We cannot do anything to take that away and all the effort that’s been put in.”

A second car would make sense to run for the Indianapolis 500. But beyond that, it’s doubtful for the rest of the season.

Rahal is working with Eddie Jones as his engineer, and Martin Pare and Mike Talbott have also joined the team this year. He had worked with Bill Pappas (2014), Gerry Hughes and Neil Fife (2013) since coming to RLL. Rahal and Pare have worked together previously.

IndyCar’s ‘Phoenix’ flying into 2023 season: Romain Grosjean enjoying the pilot’s life

IndyCar Romain Grosjean pilot
Chris Owens/Penske Entertainment
0 Comments

PALM SPRINGS, Calif. – The IndyCar driver known as “The Phoenix” already has taken flight before the 2023 season, and newly licensed pilot Romain Grosjean also got a head start on the opener.

Fulfilling a dream several years in the making, the Andretti Autosport plunged into aviation training over the offseason. Since beginning with online studying last August, Grosjean quickly progressed to earning his licenses for multiengine planes and instrument ratings while completing 115 hours of flight time.

He has landed twice at Albert Whitted Airport, whose primary runway also doubles as the front straightaway on the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg street course.

“Just to land on the start-finish line, that was pretty cool,” Grosjean said during IndyCar Preseason Content Days ahead of the Feb. 2-3 test at The Thermal Club. “The air traffic control guy was like, “Yeah, left on Acre Five, turn, and then back. I was like, ‘Oh, yeah, that’s the last corner of the racetrack, I’ll take it and go back to the pit lane. He was like, ‘Oh, yeah, yeah, that’s true.’ So it was quite funny.”

Grosjean, 36, said he had wanted to become a pilot since he was 30 but was discouraged by Europe’s complicated and time-consuming licensing process (“to go to ground school twice a week, and with our life, it’s impossible”). He was inspired again last year by (now former) teammate Alexander Rossi, who flew to some 2022 races after earning his license a couple of years ago.

“I thought that was pretty cool,” said Grosjean, who had grown “bored of waiting in the airports.”

He plans to fly to nearly all the races this year (“if the weather is good enough, I’ll be flying”) and jokes about being “commercial by the end of the year, so then I can take Roger (Penske). Roger can pay me to fly him around to races if things go bad with racing.”

Grosjean’s social media has been filled with posts about his new hobby, which afforded him the opportunity recently to take his wife to Key West for lunch from their home in the Miami area.

The trip took 37 minutes there and 41 minutes on return and highlighted why Grosjean loves flying: “Freedom. Freedom to go anywhere you want, anytime you want. It’s the beauty of it. We can go to the Bahamas for a day if we want to. Anywhere. I think that’s just great to know that you can do whatever you want.”

It’s reminiscent of the cross-country trip across the Midwest in an RV that Grosjean took with his family during the summer of his 2021 rookie season.

“There’s one thing that I told my kids, and I told my friend about America, and for me, that’s the biggest difference between Europe and here, is here everything is possible,” said Grosjean (whose “Phoenix” nickname was derived from a brush with death in his final Formula One start). “If you have the wish, if you give yourself the possibility of doing it, everything is possible. It is different in Europe. Much more boundaries on the way. Much more steps that you need to do in a certain order. But if you want to be extraordinary (in the United States), if you want to do something different, you don’t need to do those steps because you can work through.

“Yeah, I like doing things, and when I do them, I like doing them well. But here I think just the opportunity of driving the RV, flying planes, for my kids to do whatever they want to do, we love that here. Yeah, it’s been the best discovery for us.”

The Swiss-born Frenchman already has flown himself to a race this year, jetting up the Florida coast for his Rolex 24 at Daytona debut last month. It was his debut as a Lamborghini factory driver, and his new deal will continue with the Twelve Hours of Sebring and possibly the Petit Le Mans while he also helps develop the automaker’s new hybrid prototype (LMDh) for next year.

Grosjean finished a disappointing 13th in the 2022 points standings with one podium for Andretti in his first full IndyCar season. The team showed improvement at Thermal, and Grosjean (who was fourth fastest on Day 1) said IndyCar will remain his priority in 2024.

But he hopes the IndyCar schedule will afford racing in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship endurance races and perhaps his longest plane flight yet — a return to the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

“I’ll keep my fingers crossed like that we get the weekend off from IndyCar,” said Grosjean, noting that 10 IndyCar drivers were in the Rolex 24. “I think it would make a lot of sense. I think for both series it’s amazing. If we can get Le Mans, it’s also amazing because it’s just cool.

“I remember Mario flying across the Atlantic doing Monaco and the Indy 500, and those guys, they were racing everywhere, Formula 3, Formula 2, Formula 1. They were doing the races in opening of the Formula 1 race, and I think that’s very cool for us. So yeah, looking forward to the project. There’s going to be a lot of development coming on. By the time we finish the IndyCar season, the LMDh will be here in the States, and that’s when I’m going to spend a lot of time on it.”