The 2017 Verizon IndyCar Series season gets underway this weekend with the Firestone Grand Prix of St Petersburg.
Rahal Letterman Lanigan head into the new season following a strong off season getting ready for the new season. Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing ended the 2016 season as the highest placed Honda powered team.
Graham Rahal in the No.15 Honda ended the season in fifth place and this is a performance that the team will look to build on this year. So what have Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing been doing in preparation for the new season? Bob Rahal commented by saying:
I think that every year we are able to take advantage of our successes that we had the previous year – and failures –and ensure we begin the new season on a better footing. Last year we started much better at St. Pete than we did the previous year and it’s certainly our hope to do the same again this year. I think especially given the fact that the aero kits are the same, that’s one less thing to deal with so it just comes down to preparation. We have had a positive test season so far and we will go to St. Pete with some of the things we found. We brought in Tom German since last year but aside from that the team is basically the same so that consistency and the added value that Tom brings has got us thinking pretty positive about the upcoming season.
What are Bobby Rahal’s hopes and expectations for the 2017 Verizon IndyCar Series season?
Our expectation is to be even more competitive this year than last. When you think about last year, half the season we were in the top five which was pretty good but we need to make it more than half of the season. We need to be averaging a top-five finish in every race in order to win the championship. We just need to start off on the right foot. Last year we got taken out by (Carlos) Munoz and it’s things like that, that aren’t of your making that put you behind. You’ve just got to be lucky and not get caught up in someone else’s mistakes. The further up the grid you start, the less issues you normally have. So for us, our goal is to have a stronger presence in qualifying as well as the races so we can run up where all the good guys are and not get caught up in the mistakes you tend to see more often in the middle and back part of the grid.
Honda have added Chip Ganassi Racing to their programme, something they hope will move them forward this season following a difficult season in 2016, despite winning the 100th running of the Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil and the Rainguard Water Sealers 500 at Texas Motor Speedway.
What does Rahal expect from Honda and the rest of the field in 2017?
Ganassi coming back to Honda will certainly be a big story this year. Frankly I like the fact that they now have the same equipment as we do. We beat them when they were with the competition so it will be interesting to see how we fare and I expect that we will fare quite well. But we can’t just focus on them; we’ve got to focus on the whole field. We just have to do what we’ve done the past several years and that’s rely on ourselves to develop the best car we can. Obviously everyone has to do their job, and do their job better than they’ve ever done it before. And that’s from the management side, to the mechanics, to pit stops, to Graham’s driving. We’ve just got to continue to raise our game. If we do that I think we’ll be in a good spot.
The Firestone Grand Prix of St Petersburg takes place on Sunday afternoon with the green flag waving for the start of the season at 12PM ET.