In what has become a sweeping trend across the NTT IndyCar Series, Rahal Letterman Lanigan has joined Andretti Autosport, Arrow McLaren SP and Chip Ganassi Racing in reconfiguring significant portions of its engineering group ahead of the 2022 season.
Along with the construction of a massive new shop in Zionsville, Indiana, RLL has expanded to three full-time IndyCar entries and with its growth, active hiring within the industry and internal promotions have helped the Honda-powered squad to assemble its line-ups.
Graham Rahal’s No. 15 effort is the lone RLL program to go forward without a race engineering change as Allen McDonald continues in the same role. But with the departure of RLL IndyCar technical director Tom German for a factory position at Toyota Racing Development, McDonald has also been entrusted with more over-arching engineering duties to benefit the team. RLL does not intend to hire a replacement for German.
In the No. 30 program for rookie Christian Lundgaard, RLL has acquired Ed Carpenter Racing’s Ben Siegel, who will engineer the young Dane. Last year, the No. 30 featured Takuma Sato with Matt Greasley in the early rounds, and Eddie Jones, who returned to continue running the two-time Indy 500 winner for the remainder of the season.
With the No. 45 entry, ex-Meyer Shank Racing driver Jack Harvey will have the RLL veteran Mike Armbrester as his race engineer. Armbrester served as a performance engineer at RLL prior to his promotion with Harvey. In 2021, BMW Team RLL IMSA technical director Brandon Fry engineered the various drivers during the car’s part-time campaign.
And despite announcing his retirement following the 2020 season, Jones will continue serving as one of RLL’s engineering leaders.
“We also have Neil Fife, who’s been with us for a long time, and he’s going to be spearheading our damper programs and ride control programs, and Mike Talbot is doing our simulation work and virtual work,” RLL co-owner Bobby Rahal told RACER. “So they’ll still be doing their things. And then, of course, Eddie Jones is going to remain with us doing design work, coming to the races, giving his two cents’ worth as he sees fit. So that’s good having Eddie back again with us.”
Rahal is fond of the continuity found in many areas of RLL’s engineering group and the new opportunities in other areas.
“We do have a lot of the same faces doing what they’re good at doing, and then there’s some new faces, or good people we’ve brought upwards,” he added. “Graham and Allen McDonald get along well, and I think Mike Armbrester’s got a lot of experience and has been part of this organization for quite a while, so it’s a great opportunity for him. I think he and Jack are gonna work really well together.
“And then, of course, Ben Siegel, who is highly rated, and I was very pleased we could get him and he’s a young guy; we definitely look at him in a long-term way. We’re pretty happy with the line-up and have some great performance engineers and support engineers behind them.”
If there’s an all-encompassing facet of RLL’s growth that pleases Rahal the most, it’s seeing the plan developed by IndyCar team manager Ricardo Nault and RLL IMSA technical director Brandon Fry come to fruition as the team has hired a significant number of crew members during the offseason.
“With the third IndyCar, we had to find a dedicated group of people to run that car; we were capable of pulling people over from other programs to help last year in the short term, and we also needed more people for our BMW program,” Rahal said. “We’ve also really worked hard at trying to bring as many young people into the team as possible, because it’s hard to find young people for some of these jobs and a lot of the people in racing are older.
“So I’ve been very pleased with the work that both that Ricardo and Brandon have done in bringing the next-generation talent into the organization and having the patience to teach them and see them grow. You look at Graham’s car, for example, and they’re almost all young people that started with us, maybe four years ago, that came either right out of college or a motorsports program, or the junior categories. Young people who wanted to make the next step up, and that initiative has been going well for us as we get bigger.”