Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing team co-owner Bobby Rahal says he believes that the current product that the NTT IndyCar Series offers today is what Formula One used to be like in that it has become an attractive alternative to racing in Formula One. Speaking to Paddock Eye during a Zoom conference following the announcement that Christian Lundgaard has joined his team as their third full-time NTT IndyCar Series driver for 2022, Rahal explained why he thinks that more and more drivers from Europe and further afield are drawn to IndyCar rather than Formula One.
Well, first off, I think INDYCAR is what Formula 1 used to be, to a large degree. Clearly we don’t have the politics. Clearly we don’t — there’s a lot of things that don’t exist in the INDYCAR paddock that exist in the Formula 1 paddock.
You look at how many really good guys are in F2 who maybe are frustrated now because they can’t make that next step, and yet they’ve kind of proven their abilities.
As Christian mentioned, I think that — if I’m a young guy in Europe and I look at the potentials, I think the potential for my career is much greater here in INDYCAR than it is there.
I fully expect — as we once had a number of years ago where we had a number of Europeans and Brazilians in INDYCAR racing, I see a greater representation from countries in Europe, countries in South America towards INDYCAR.
Rahal also spoke to us about how adding a third car will prove to be beneficial to the entire RLL IndyCar Series organization.
Well, I think there’s a couple reasons why it’s a positive for us. One is Christian brings kind of a different, new look into — Graham and Jack have been in INDYCAR now for a number of years. Now you’ve got somebody who’s really not been in it but maybe their approach or their feel for the car can be a little bit different, can maybe bring up some new ideas to try for the other guys and vice versa.
Clearly, especially on the ovals, I think Christian is going to benefit from having, as you mentioned, having Jack and Graham, because they’ve been very competitive on the ovals. That’s going to help him in that respect.
But in addition, rookies get extra test days, and we saw the benefit of that with Colton Herta a few years ago. We saw it with Jack. We saw it with — you see it with a number of — when Ericsson came in and others. They were with great teams and they were really able to use those extra days to great benefit for the team. That’s a big plus, I think, that we’re looking forward to having on our side.
I think it’s just — it’s not just how fast you are on the track, it’s how you work within the team, obviously the sponsors, you name it. Christian impressed us on all those fronts.
We’re very pleased, and I think having him on board is going to be just, as I said, just a good thing for us as a whole.
Paddock Eye also had the opportunity to speak to Christian Lundgaard who will pilot the No.30 Shield Cleansers Honda. We began by asking him about his new teammate’s Graham Rahal and Jack Harvey.
I mean, obviously I’m super excited to get driving. I think all drivers are excited to get on track and do laps. But for me it’s important to have the experience from Graham and Jack. I know that Graham is especially very competitive on the ovals. And, yeah, I raced against both of them in Indy earlier this year on the road course, so I learned a bit about them, and I think like Bobby mentioned, we can help each other.
I can come with maybe some more European culture, more of a European driving style. They know more about this track, but I can maybe come and uncover some areas of the car that they maybe aren’t able to because they’ve been in the same car for so long, where I have some other experiences.
So I’m super excited to work with them and the whole team to see where we can improve.
When we asked him about which races outside of the Indianapolis 500 he is looking forward to the most he simply said All of them.
We also asked Bobby Rahal if the team has any plans to test in the near future.
No, not in the next couple weeks for sure. Again, you’re so limited, and we want to go to the right circuits to test. I’m sure we’ll go to Sebring in the wintertime. We always do. But really you’re kind of — you don’t have a lot of choice because you can’t test anywhere north of — again, I think it’ll be interesting, and I don’t know, but certainly interesting when we’re going to go to Texas because, as I said, the race is early this year, much earlier, several months earlier than it has been previously, and of course once again, to get Christian in for rookie orientation and what have you, we’ve got to have a day there, as well.
Don’t know precisely, but obviously we want to get everyone, Graham, Jack, Christian, we want them to be in the car as much as they possibly can, and so we’re going to be scheduling that here, I’m sure — if it isn’t already scheduled, I think it’s close to being fully decided upon.