Bobby Rahal says testing IMSA star Colin Braun is a priority for the offseason, and with more time, the Texan might have raced for the team alongside Graham Rahal and Takuma Sato at the Verizon IndyCar Series season finale in Sonoma.
“I’ve known Colin for quite a few years; he grew up racing karts with Graham and James Hinchcliffe and Robert Wickens in the early 2000s,” the Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing co-owner (pictured above) told RACER. “And he was successful then, been successful in sports cars and did NASCAR with [Jack] Roush, and in the IMSA series he’s shown – especially of late with two overall wins – that he’s quite a capable and accomplished driver.
“We don’t have anything settled for a third car at Sonoma, and it’s probably too late for that, but we hope to test Colin here in the offseason because we think he has potential.”
Rahal has enjoyed a front-row seat to Braun’s performances in IMSA’s WeatherTech SportsCar Championship series. Although Braun competes in the Prototype class with CORE autosport, Rahal’s factory BMW Team RLL effort in the GT Le Mans category has provided dozens of opportunities for him to watch the 29-year-old and other elite drivers ply their trade in endurance racing.
Looking to the future – and noting the surprise Wickens has generated after being plucked from the DTM by Schmidt Peterson Motorsports – Rahal believes Braun is among a handful of talented IMSA drivers that could deliver in IndyCar.
“You look at the IndyCar Series and guys like Scott Dixon and Will Power and [Ryan] Hunter-Reay, they’re all tied up [with contracts],” he added. “And then there’s the question of how much longer some of the veterans are going to race. Some guys have been around for a long time, and they can race Indy cars into their 40s; Mario Andretti did it until he was 54, but if you look around, all of the really good guys are tied down or in the latter years of their careers, so where do you go?
“Yeah, you could look at Formula 2, or maybe Formula 1, but most of the [F1] guys who would be available – other than Alonso – aren’t guys you’d want. So we’re looking at where the new generation is coming from and who will be the replacements for the older drivers. We’re looking to IMSA and some of the other categories on who might be next. And with a guy like Colin, he’s still young, but has a lot of experience for his age. And even if it isn’t IndyCar experience, it’s still very valuable. A guy like Colin is worth looking at.”
And Braun isn’t the only IMSA star on RLL’s radar. Current Prototype points leader Felipe Nasr, who spent two seasons with the Sauber F1 team before joining the Action Express Racing Cadillac DPi team, has also piqued the 1986 Indy 500 winner’s curiosity.
“We’d also like to test Felipe Nasr,” Rahal said of the 25-year-old Brazilian. “That guy can stand on the gas. There’s a lot of guys out there who are in other categories where they deserve a test, deserve a shot at seeing if they would be the right fit for IndyCar. Clearly, we’re looking at guys like Colin and Felipe, because of their stature.
“Just because they aren’t IndyCar guys doesn’t mean a thing to me. If you look at what all they’ve accomplished outside of IndyCar, it more than warrants some investigation on our part to see what they might be able to do over here.”