Going into the Indianapolis 500 with three of the four entries and seeing his son Graham Rahal bounced off the field by teammate Jack Harvey was not a scenario Bobby Rahal could have imagined before May 21.
Fresh from pole position for the Indianapolis Grand Prix and a strong run for all of his Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing cars on May 13, the shock to see Graham fail to qualify was an unexpected low to surpass the previous weekend’s highs . Slow at the Indy Open Test in April, the team returned to the grand 2.5-mile oval for practice and qualifying after the Indy GP and made minimal gains.
With Sunday’s Indy 500 offering no kindness to RLL as one-time driver Katherine Legge crashed into the pit wall to become the first driver to retire from the race, while full-timers Jack Harvey (18th) and Christian Lundgaard (19th) pushed forward from behind off the field but had no impact on the event, Rahal left the track with a good sense of what happened and what needs to change when they return for IndyCar’s biggest show in May.
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“Very disappointed in the performance of our team,” the 1986 Indy 500 winner told RACER. “There is certainly a lot of introspection; we’ve been there before, not that I’m not proud of it, but we’ve been there before. The answer will be we come back next year and win this race. We will have to commit ourselves not only to doing things right, but also to do the right things. And clearly, probably from a mechanical resistance standpoint, we’re not. We are not where we should be.
“Despite spending time in the wind tunnel, we obviously missed certain things or just didn’t quite understand what to do. And there are experienced people behind that, so you wonder. But it is clearly a cause for introspection and a cause for determination. We’re not going to do this again. We’re going to take our place where we should be, way up front. All I can say is thank goodness there are no more high speed ovals on the schedule. I really felt sorry for our drivers because we let them down and of course let down our sponsors. Fortunately, they have all been very supportive of us, but we all expect better.”
Rahal remains committed to getting Jack Harvey up to speed and solving the team’s systemic problems at the Indy 500. Gavin Baker/Motorsport Images
Three years ago, RLL won the Indy 500 with former driver Takuma Sato. Two Indy 500s ago, the latest winner, Team Penske, had two cars – Will Power’s and the affiliate entry Paretta Autosport’s Simona De Silvestro – battling as RLL to get through the Last Chance qualifying session. Turnarounds are possible, and despite the busy schedule in which the NTT IndyCar Series goes straight from the 500 to this weekend’s race at the Grand Prix street festival in downtown Detroit, Rahal is not giving his team a long runway to work out solutions to his Indy ailments. .
“I want both the technical staff and the management, [COO] Steve Ericson, [VP of Operations] Ricardo [Nault], to dig in now,” he said. “I asked them for what I call the ‘Indy Recovery Plan’. And that was requested immediately after qualifying. We still have several weeks and at the end of [June], that plan will be defined. Then we will work to improve our performance. We don’t wait until fall or winter. That starts now because I think there’s quite a bit of work to do, things to look at.
“Ultimately we are a proud team. We’re proud of our achievements and the fact that we’ve won races and won Indy 500s and everything else. And that’s just totally not acceptable with what’s happened, so we’re starting to do something about that. Now. We’re not going to wait. This year it was the result of not doing well in recent years, and we paid the price for that.”
Having placed all three drivers in the top eight at the Indy GP, RLL should see an uptick in results as the series moves into a series of road and street courses. And while RLL’s owners are demanding rapid changes in their competitiveness in superspeedway, Rahal says that’s not the case with the embattled Jack Harvey, who has been the subject of growing rumors about the team’s desire to have another driver in the field sooner. No. 30 Honda to try. end of the season.
“Jack is our driver,” Rahal said of the Briton, who is in the final year of a two-year contract. “We have time to determine how we want to proceed, and there is no need to hurry. It’s all about focusing on the upcoming races and doing our best. The chips will fall soon and we’ll see where they end up. At this stage Jack is in for the season as far as I can tell – Jack is our driver. We are committed to him and I think he is committed to us.”
Story originally appeared on Racer