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Rahal Takes The Family Car For A Spin At Sebring

John Sturbin | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Wednesday, December 12 2012

Graham Rahal prepares to speed off in his father's car. (Photo courtesy of INDYCAR)

By John Sturbin | Senior Writer
RacinToday.com

Graham Rahal recorded his first hot laps in the family car in wet conditions Tuesday, and didn’t put a scratch on it.

Rahal completed 49 trouble-free laps during IZOD IndyCar Series testing with Rahal/Letterman/Lanigan Racing on the 1.65-mile Sebring (Fla.) International Raceway, his first session in an RLL-prepared car on a road-course. Rahal posted a best lap time of 54.730-seconds in low-grip, changing track conditions. Light showers in the morning led to a day of testing in damp-to-dry-to-wet conditions before a late afternoon shower brought an end to the day.

“We didn’t run a huge amount of laps but I think it was a pretty darn productive day,” said Rahal, driver of the No. 15 TBC Retail Group Dallara/Honda. “The car feels great. For the first day I’m pretty impressed and certainly encouraged by what we have. The guys did a great job to get a lot of work done in a short period of time; we were really efficient. The forecast isn’t great for (Wednesday). If it’s sunny we’ll run a lot and if it’s not, we’re pretty limited on rain tires and we don’t want to bang-up the car so we’ll have to see how much we run. Even if we only get in as much as we did (Tuesday), it’s good for us.”

INDYCAR’s testing window for 2012 closes Friday, and a number of teams are scheduled to join the RLL crew for sessions on Wednesday and Thursday. The testing window will be closed through Jan. 4. The 2013 season will begin with the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, Fla., on April 24.

Graham Rahal and father Bobby Rahal. (IZOC IndyCar Series file photo by Dan Helrigel)

“We made some changes throughout the afternoon so what we did get done will give us initial insight into some of the development work we have done over the course of the winter,” said Gerry Hughes, RLL engineer. “Graham is a very, very nice guy to work with, very calm and methodical and we had a productive day given the weather conditions.”

Rahal joined the team co-owned by father Bobby Rahal, the 1986 Indianapolis 500 champion, after spending the last two seasons with Service Central Chip Ganassi Racing. Rahal, 23, finished 10th in the 2012 driver standings during a season featuring four top-five and seven top-10 results. Rahal finished a season-best second on Texas Motor Speedway’s 1.5-mile quadoval on June 9 on a night when he led a season-high 27 laps in the No. 38 entry. A brush with the Turn 4 wall with two laps remaining opened the door for Justin Wilson’s first series victory by 3.9202-seconds.

Rahal became the youngest winner in major auto racing history when he drove to victory in his first IndyCar Series start at age 19 in the 2008 Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg. The following season he became the youngest pole-winner at the same event _ both while driving for Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing, a team co-owned by Michael Lanigan at the time.

RLL also announced that Eddie Jones has joined the organization as race engineer for the second 2013 IndyCar Series program the team is working to finalize. Jones spent more than 15 years with Team Green/Andretti Autosport as a race engineer in Indy Lights, Champ Car and IndyCar before moving to KV Racing Technology in 2012 as former F1 driver Rubens Barrichello’s engineer.

Jones worked with Michael Andretti (2001-2003), the late Dan Wheldon (2003-2005), Marco Andretti (2006-08, 2011-12) and Danica Patrick (2009-10) as Team Green/Andretti Autosport transitioned from CART to IndyCar.

While at Andretti Autosport, Jones engineered 13 IndyCar wins, including Wheldon’s 2005 Indy 500 victory and series title, and five top-three Indy 500 finishes. Jones’ 2012 season at KVRT produced a 12th-place points finish for series rookie Barrichello, including two top-five and seven top-10 results. Barrichello was voted Indy 500 Rookie of the Year after an 11th-place finish and leading the first two laps of his IndyCar career.

Second-generation driver Conor Daly is scheduled to test the No. 14 ABC Supply Dallara/Honda at Sebring International Raceway on Thursday – two days before his 21st birthday.

Daly, who will be testing an IZOD IndyCar Series car for the first time, is the son of Derek Daly, a former Formula One and Indy-car driver.

“Conor Daly is one of the exciting up-and-coming drivers in open-wheel racing today,” said Larry Foyt, son of the four-time Indianapolis 500 champion and team director of A.J. Foyt Racing. “I had spoken to Conor at the F-1 race in Austin (Texas) and I was impressed. I thought this test was a perfect opportunity to see how he works with our team. Depending on how it goes, we may be able to do something with him in the future.”

A native of Noblesville, Ind., Daly has won in every series in which he has competed including Firestone Indy Lights, Star Mazda, GP3 and Skip Barber. He spent the last two seasons competing in GP3, the European-based single-seat series. Daly has won championships in Star Mazda and Skip Barber National series.

“I’m honored to have the opportunity to drive an IndyCar for the first time with A.J. Foyt Racing,” Daly said. “I’ve grown up at the Indy 500 and have always dreamed of getting in an IndyCar some day. I’ll do the best job I can to get to know the team and complete all the things they’ve got planned for the test. I can’t thank Larry enough for organizing this and taking an interest in my future.”

Englishman Mike Conway drove Foyt’s car in 14 of 15 events in 2012, opting to sit-out the season-ender on the Auto Club Speedway oval on Sept. 15. Conway was replaced in Fontana, Calif., by rookie Wade Cunningham, who finished 14th, four laps down to winner Ed Carpenter.

In addition, Foyt Racing has signed Timothy Paul to compete in the Firestone Indy Lights Championship beginning in 2014. Paul, of Mahopac, N.Y., will spend 2013 competing in both the F2000 and USF2000 series in a CellMark Paper-sponsored entry.

A student at Franklin Pierce University majoring in English, Paul, 27, is a cancer survivor. He will contest the 2013 season for GTP Motorsports and SMR Racing in the No. 06 Van Diemen/Zetec in the F2000 Championship Series, switching over to a similar Van Diemen, although with a Mazda powerplant, for the full USF2000 Championship schedule. Engineering support will come from GTP Motorsports led by Glenn Phillips and Michael Witson.

“Tim has done a lot of different open-wheel racing in his career coming through the Midgets and Sprints which we appreciate more than most IndyCar teams, I think,” Larry Foyt said. “He’s worked very hard to get this opportunity and it will be a strong team effort. It works well for us as well because I’ve wanted to start up our Indy Lights program again. Not only is it a great feeder program for young drivers but also for young mechanics who aspire to work in the IndyCar Series. Being in Texas, we’re a bit removed from the racing hub but we enjoy bringing on young guys and training them our way.”

Oriol Servia will return to the No. 22 Panther Dreyer & Reinbold Racing Dallara/Chevrolet for a second season in 2013.

Oriol Servia has new job. (File photo courtesy of the IZOD IndyCar Series)

After switching to the 2.2-liter, twin-turbocharged Chevy V6 at the beginning of May, Servia finished fourth in the Indianapolis 500. He followed with top-five finishes on the street courses in Detroit and Toronto and The Milwaukee Mile.

“We had several great on-track performances this past season, including our fourth-place finish at the Indianapolis 500, but we’re not satisfied,” said Servia, a 38-year-old native of Spain. “Our goal is to win that race and contend week-in and week-out for wins and podiums at all races. Continuity is very important in our sport and now we’ll be able to build upon our successes in a second year together.”

Servia, who has been competing in domestic open-wheel racing since 2000, finished fourth in the 2011 IndyCar standings and 13th in 2012. The 1999 Indy Lights champion also was runnerup in the 2005 Champ Car World Series standings.

The strategic alliance between Panther DRR and Panther Racing will see Servia working with JR Hildebrand, driver of the No. 4 National Guard Panther Racing entry.

“Hiring Oriol Servia to drive the No. 22 was a no-brainer,” said team co-owner Robbie Buhl. “To be able to continue building on-track momentum and a strong relationship between Oriol and our technical team was an opportunity we couldn’t pass up. We believe Oriol gives us the best chance for us to win the Indianapolis 500 and compete for wins.”

The 2013 season will mark the 14th year of fulltime competition for Panther DRR (previously Dreyer & Reinbold Racing), making it one of the longest tenured teams in INDYCAR.

Reigning Indianapolis 500 champion Dario Franchitti of Target Chip Ganassi Racing and Star Mazda

Dario Franchitti in Victory Lane at Indy. (INDYCAR/LAT USA)

Champion Jack Hawksworth were among honorees of the British Racing Drivers Club at its annual awards on Dec. 3 in London.

Franchitti, who won his third Indianapolis 500 in May, was awarded the Earl Howe Trophy as highest-placed British driver in the Indy 500, or the British driver who has established the most meritorious performance of the year in North America.

Hawksworth, who clinched the Star Mazda Championship presented by Goodyear in record-setting fashion, was awarded the Henry Surtees Trophy for the most outstanding performance by a BRDC Rising Star.

Fuzzy’s Ultra Premium Vodka has signed-on as title sponsor for the 2013 IZOD IndyCar Series Triple Crown, featuring the Indianapolis 500, Pocono INDYCAR 400 and the MAVTV 500.

Known as the Fuzzy’s Triple Crown, the three-race oval track set will award a $1-million payout to any driver who can win all three prestigious events. A driver who wins two-of-three races will be awarded a $250,000 bonus.

Previous Triple Crown events included 500-mile races at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Pocono Raceway and Ontario, Calif., from 1971-1980 and from 1981-1989 at Indy, Pocono and Michigan International Speedway. For a brief time, Phillip Morris sponsored the Marlboro Million for the Triple Crown.

Only one driver, Al Unser, has captured all three races during a single season. The four-time Indianapolis 500 champion drove to victory in the Jim Hall-owned First National City Travelers Checks Lola/Cosworth at Indy, Pocono and Ontario in 1978.

A.J. Foyt Jr. (twice), Johnny Rutherford and Gordon Johncock won two-of-three Triple Crown races in the same year. In Triple Crown events contested from 1971 to 1989, Al Unser and Foyt won seven races with Bobby Unser and Rick Mears posting six victories.

– John Sturbin can be reached at jsturbin@racintoday.com

John Sturbin | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Wednesday, December 12 2012
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