Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing head into this weekend’s 2018 Verizon IndyCar Series season opening Firestone Grand Prix of St Petersburg this weekend full of confidence following a successful winter for the Brownsburg based outfit.
The team led by Bobby Rahal, Mike Lanigan and former late night talk show host David Letterman go into the new season having expanded to a two car full-time programme for this season with 2017 Indianapolis 500 champion Takuma Sato joining Graham Rahal at the outfit.
Speaking about St Petersburg, Sato commented by saying:
St. Petersburg is the perfect venue to open the season because there is such a good energy there, everyone looks forward to the warm weather in Florida and the race itself is always unpredictable because it’s a street course. It will be even more exciting this year with the new (aero) package. It’s a new season, there are new drivers, drivers with new teams and that, combined with a street course will bring some excitement on track. The rhythm of the track is interesting. It has some very fast committed corners as well as the technical Mickey Mouse section and then back on the long straight at the airport. It’s a fun track that I always enjoy. Hopefully we will have the best result.
Graham Rahal spoke about the circuit saying:
St. Pete is one of the greats and I am happy to get our season going there once again. With some new paving, a new car and a whole lot of new drivers around the series, it’s going to be an exciting weekend for everyone and I can’t wait to get it started and hopefully have a great result for United Rentals. I think our team has worked incredibly hard this offseason, and I do think our guys deserve to be rewarded for that. We are all refreshed. We are all anxious and excited for what’s to come. I think this year can be something special for Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing, and I am focused heavily on making that possible! There is a new car, more new sponsors and a re-energized focus. It’s time for us to win championships and I think if we do so it can help our sport grow even more.
Sato hopes that with the new aero-kit, RLL will be able to challenge for the championship:
We all have a brand new car with the new aero kit and I can’t wait to get out there. “The car works extremely well and looks really cool. It’s more difficult to drive which is good. For the drivers, there is definitely more action involved in the cockpit due to less downforce which makes the car slide around more and that is always good for the racing. It’s a little bit of an unknown right now because I haven’t really raced with other cars yet in the street course package but it seems to be working really well. Overall, it’s good for the series, good for our races and we will try to have as consistent of a season as possible to try to challenge for the championship.
Rahal is excited to be racing with the new aero kit saying:
I am really excited about this new aero kit as I do think it will equalize things. “The way I think about it, if you do your job and you nail the setup, you will be right there contending for wins. Before there were certainly cases and tracks where that wasn’t the way it was for us, and it is nice now to feel like we can be rewarded for lots of hard work.
So how is Takuma feeling about his return to the team?
The transition to a new team went extremely well in the off season. Of course I was basically returning to the team I drove for in 2012 but there are a lot of new faces to remember and it has gone very well. Testing in the off-season was very short due to the new aero kit but I think the team did extremely well with the amount of testing we had. We already have shown good speed but there are a lot of things to learn so hopefully we will be well prepared for St. Petersburg.
The team have not only expanded to a two car team but both Rahal and Sato will have new race engineers and speaking about this, Rahal commented by saying:
So far so good; I think the team has adjusted just fine. Tom (German) is great. I am very excited to have him on our side and think together we can accomplish some great stuff. Our team is loaded with talent. Every mechanic has been hand chosen to fit their role and I can’t think of a better group of men to go to battle with every weekend!