While the entire Verizon IndyCar Series brigade has enjoyed an upward trajectory of momentum this offseason, no team has experienced as much success in the winter months as Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing.
After spending four years as a single-car effort with Graham Rahal, the organization is in expansion mode while they add defending Indianapolis 500 winner Takuma Sato to the team’s full-time line-up. Reuniting with the team in which he drove for in 2012, Sato seems to be coming into his own as an IndyCar veteran.
This past weekend at ISM Raceway in Avondale, Arizona, the Japanese driver led two separate practice sessions during a full-field open test in the desert. Sato would set the weekend’s quickest time with a lap at 189.855 miles per hour (19.370 seconds) during Saturday’s evening session, and was very positive when discussing the team’s progress and hot start considering their relative lack of test time with the new universal aero kit.
“The open test was very successful, I would say,” remarked Sato. “Lots of things done and lots of things to be tried, and I think over the course of two days we learned a lot. Great car, definitely more exercise for the drivers, definitely busier with low downforce.
“We did qualifying simulations and race traffic runs. I think the Rahal Letterman Lanigan team is really strong, so I’m really looking forward to two more road course tests and hopefully we’ll be ready for St. Pete.”
A bit more tempered in his day two evaluations of the car and his team’s progress, Graham Rahal still had some praise to share. “Today has been okay,” the 29-year-old driver explained. “I think the car has pace, but we have some work to do to get it just right to come back here. So far it’s been a tremendous start for the team overall, and I’m excited to get back here and go racing.
“It’s far more fun to come back here and know you have a shot at it than years past, so I’m excited about that.”
The excitement on the race track still has a ways to catch up to the excitement the team has generated off the track. Over the offseason, the team has signed multiple companies to sponsorship deals of varying length and support – but all with positive ramifications.
In a lesser-publicized note, Takuma Sato continues to be sponsored by Japanese electronics giant Panasonic. The company has expanded its investment in Sato following his Indianapolis 500 win and since joining RLL, Mi-Jack has strengthened their partnership with the team by associate spon
On January 31, TOTAL QUARTZ joined the Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing effort as the team’s official lubricant partner. Within the partnership, Total will be the primary sponsor of Rahal’s Honda No. 15 machine at the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach in April while serving as a technical partner and associate sponsor at additional events throughout the year.
Building on an existing relationship, United Rentals stepped forward and expanded on their sponsorship efforts with RLL with a confirmed press release on February 7. In the new deal, United Rentals will sponsor Rahal’s car for the season-opening race in St. Petersburg, Florida, both races at the Detroit doubleheader, the INDYCAR Grand Prix in Indianapolis, and the 102nd Running of the Indianapolis 500 on May 27.
Finally, at the Phoenix open test this past weekend, the team revealed that One Cure would sponsor the No. 15 car for both the April race at ISM Raceway as well as the Labor Day weekend event in Portland, Oregon. Per the official team press release, One Cure is a project led by CSU’s Flint Animal Cancer Center, utilizes research from innovative cancer treatments for pets involved in clinical trials to benefit people.
The center sees more than 1,500 new animal cancer patients every year, with approximately 130 patients enrolling in these carefully monitored clinical trials.
Now with the speed on-track matching the speed and momentum generated off-track, Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing is building a formidable IndyCar effort for the 2018 season. Shed from the limitations of Honda’s short oval aero kit, the team executed and performed beautifully in Arizona this past weekend and should Honda’s engine advantages continue to shine, the team will be well aligned for a strong run at Indianapolis.
Keep an eye on Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing this year, not that they will be hard to miss.
Images courtesy of INDYCAR Media.