The RLLR squad continues to aim at a pair of aces for its 2014 Indycar program. (LAT photo)
News of IndyCar Series driver movement has been incredibly slow in recent weeks thanks to the majority of the grid sorted their deals before the New Year. Among the few remaining seats of interest, Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing’s second Honda-powered Indy car could have a new name associated with it in the next month or so if all goes according to plan.
RLLR is coming off a less than flattering season where high expectations for Graham Rahal in the No. 15 and James Jakes in the No. 16 were met infrequently. Team co-owner Bobby Rahal stepped in at mid-season to bolster the program’s management, hiring ex-Ganassi Racing team manager Mitch Davis to fill a missing layer of support, and continued adding depth to the team when he hired ex-Dale Coyne Racing engineer Bill Pappas to handle his son’s car in 2014.
As RACER’s Robin Miller reported last year, RLLR is expected to add sponsorship from the National Guard which could play a role in finding the right driver for the No. 16.
“We continue to talk with paying and paid drivers, but our preference is to hire the driver of our choosing to race alongside Graham so we have the best two-car team possible,” Rahal told RACER. “We want the most competitive driver, whether they have money or not, and that usually means they don’t (laughs). We’ve had some inquiries from overseas and here as well. I’m looking for veterans right now, and once we’ve gotten the team to where I want it to be, then we’d look at maybe going for younger talent, but not at the moment.”
With IndyCar teams in the midst of a closed testing window, Rahal says RLLR continues to focus on reviewing what took place in 2013 and fixing the areas where they fell short.
“All you have to do is look at our track record; last year was a mediocre year for us, but we aren’t satisfied and have made a bunch of changes to make sure we’re better this year,” he said. “A lot better. It happens to everyone at some point. Look at Andretti, or Ganassi or Penske; they’ve all had down years and gone back to the drawing board and come back stronger. We’re in the same situation.”
Rahal previously told RACER the team was interested in proven commodities like Oriol Servia, Alex Tagliani, Justin Wilson and a few others who would deliver immediate results. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see one of those three on-board when the season opens on March 30 on the streets of St. Petersburg.
“For us, the people we’re looking at, we don’t really need to evaluate them at a test,” added Rahal. “We’re not concerned about having to go out and test a bunch of drivers to pick one. We’re more interested in housekeeping at this point, really. Mitch Davis, who has fresh eyes on how we do things, has been taking a lot of time to clean up the areas he feels need improving, and I think that, more than going out and testing a bunch at this point, will help us more.
“We want to have our second driver identified by the end of the month, and we’d like to test with them by about the middle of February, if we can, and get moving on our season. We’re confident in who we want in the car, and provided we get everything else up to snuff, I think we’ll be in a much better place by the time we get to St. Pete.”