It’s possible Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing driver James Jakes could return for a second season with the Indianapolis-based squad, but with the Englishman openly seeking other options in the paddock, team co-owner Bobby Rahal is also on the hunt for a new teammate to field alongside his son Graham in 2014.
“Right now, we’re open next year on our second car,” Rahal told RACER. “We’ve spoken with James and his father and I think there’s plenty of good reasons they’d want to keep going for the sake of continuity and to take advantage of some of the changes we’ve made, including some that haven’t been announced.
“We think [James] should stay where he is, but in the meantime, we’re talking with others and expect to have a two-car team again and are making all of the necessary investments to have that happen.”
Having been through the Indy car silly season a few dozen times as a driver and owner, Rahal isn’t surprised by Jakes’ exploratory efforts and welcomes the chance to run him again if the seat remains open.
“This time of year, everybody tells everybody they’re interested in driving for them, and the grass isn’t always greener, but we’re not sitting here waiting,” he continued. “We’re going after having the best driver lineup we can get.”
Jakes has been impressive in the No. 16 RLLR throughout the year, and much of his transformation can be attributed to the relationship he’s built with veteran engineer Eddie Jones, who will remain with the team next season.
“I think James and Eddie made a great pair and the results showed that,” Rahal added. “Eddie will remain with us and is a real strength to our team. Whoever comes to us for the second program is going to have a heck of an engineer waiting for them.”
RLLR is due to test Firestone Indy Lights championship contender Jack Hawksworth at Sebring on Tuesday, and based on the young Briton’s determination to join the IndyCar Series next year, he could be a candidate to take over the No. 16 seat.
“We’ll do the test and see how it goes,” said Rahal. “He’s been to the shop and has been very enthusiastic. His driver coach, Rocky Moran, is a good friend of mine and rates him very highly. Once we complete the test, then we’ll sit down and see where things are with Jack, but first things first, we’ll get the test done before making any decisions.”