Monthly Archives: June 2011

Rahal Letterman Lanigan Signs Pippa Mann to Three-Race Indy Car Program

HILLIARD, Ohio (June 14, 2011) – Continuing efforts to prepare for a full-time Indy Car Series effort in 2012, Rahal Letterman Lanigan today announced that it would partner with promising Indy Lights driver and 2011 Indianapolis 500 rookie Pippa Mann for three Indy Car events later this year.

Mann, who finished 20th in becoming the first British female to ever start in the Indy 500, will drive the RLL #30 Dallara/Honda/Firestone in events at Loudon, Kentucky and Las Vegas. The 27-year-old will have a pair of testing opportunities with the team as part of the program, the first of which will take place at Loudon’s New Hampshire Motor Speedway on July 5.

“I’m absolutely thrilled to have the opportunity to get back into an IndyCar this year, with Rahal Letterman Lanigan. The team has a great history in IndyCar, and a reputation that precedes them for consistently fielding fast cars,” Mann said. “After I completed Indianapolis, I didn't know what lay ahead for me, and I'm delighted not to have had too much time off before getting back in an IndyCar. I'm especially happy to return to Kentucky Speedway – where I won in Firestone Indy Lights last year. Loudon and Las Vegas will both be new tracks for me, and I’m looking forward to the test in New Hampshire in just three weeks time!”

A three-time polewinner in the Firestone Indy Lights series a year ago, Mann comes to the IZOD Indy Car Series after two seasons in the Lights cars. Last year was a breakout season for the Londoner as she used a strong late run to finish fifth in the final standings. Pippa scored top-five results in each of the last four events of the year including a wire-to-wire victory at Kentucky Speedway in which she led 67 laps. Mann also led 35 trips around the Chicagoland Speedway oval on her way to a second-place finish in a rush that vaulted her from 11th to fifth in the final standings.

The Loudon event marks the first Indy Car event since 1998 to be held at the 1.058-mile oval in New Hampshire. The track holds special significance for RLL co-owner Bobby Rahal who finished in the top 10 in each of his four starts there, including a win from pole in his 1992 championship season. The Kentucky Speedway race weekend will be a welcome return for Mann, who scored the first win of her open-wheel career there a year ago. The Vegas event will be new for Mann and for RLL, as neither the team nor the drivers has never competed on the 1.5-mile Las Vegas Motor Speedway oval.

“Pippa showed her skills in Indy Lights last year, but we were also impressed with the way she handled herself at Indianapolis this season,” said Rahal. “She showed patience during the month and kept finding speed in the car, and her racing resume has shown that she will continue to get better every time she puts in a lap. We are looking forward to seeing her progress as the year goes on.”

Rahal Letterman Lanigan has demonstrated its ability in bringing young drivers to the front at many stops in its 20-year history, with three series Rookie-of-the-Year winners and two Indy 500 top rookie awards. This year has been no exception as the team finished seventh and led 11 laps at Indy with second-year driver Bertrand Baguette, and also had strong outings with former Indy Lights champion Jay Howard at Indy and Texas. 

 

Rahal Letterman Lanigan’s Jay Howard Gains 13 Spots in Texas Opener, Places 20th in Nightcap

DALLAS/FORT WORTH (June 11, 2011) – The Indy Car Firestone Twin 275s had its share of gimmicks as the series ran two races in the same night for the first time in 30 years, but for Rahal Letterman Lanigan’s Jay Howard, he relied on the time-honored trick of passing cars to have a good night at Texas Motor Speedway.

Howard piloted the #88 Service Central Dallara/Honda/Firestone past 13 cars in the first of two 114-lap events around the 1.5-mile TMS oval in the first race to come from 28th on the grid to finish 15th. A blind draw after the first race saw the Brit pull the 13th starting spot for the nightcap, and he ran in the top 10 for much of the first half of the race before a mechanical issue in the pits dropped him to 20th in the final standings.

“All in all, I was encouraged by how things went tonight,” Howard said. “We passed a lot of cars, especially in the first race and I think we proved that this is a team that can be a threat. I ran a higher lane in the second race and that helped the car hold on a bit longer throughout the fuel run. Overall, I think we ran well.”

Howard started 28th in the first race, but gained four spots on the first lap and passed five more competitors on the second trip around the tricky Texas oval. He passed James Hinchcliffe on Lap 33 to claim 14th before falling back on his way to his first pit stop. He ran in the lower half of the top 20 during his second stint, but made a strong charge after his final stop, passing four cars in the last 10 laps and fighting off Danica Patrick over the last two laps to hold onto 15th.

The 2006 Indy Lights champion employed a similar strategy early on in the second race, but did it this time from the 13th spot on the grid. He climbed into the top 10 after just five laps and this time another pass of Hinchcliffe vaulted him to an evening-high seventh place. He fell back to 11th before his first pit stop and ran in the top 12 leading into his final stop on Lap 93. Unfortunately, a mechanical malady slowed the crew in replacing the tires, dropping Howard to 26th. He made up six spots in the final laps and ended his day in the 20th position.

“I thought Jay did a really great job tonight, we passed a lot of cars and the team overall did a nice job,” said RLL Chief Operating Officer Scott Roembke. “We made some good changes to the car in the halftime break and that made a difference. Just like at Indianapolis, once the flag drops Jay knows where he wants to go and works hard on getting there. We thought it was a good format for the race, I think the fans enjoyed it.”

The Rahal Letterman Lanigan team is working on further plans for Indy Car in 2011 and is also preparing to get back on track with its American Le Mans Series GT-leading program with the BMW M3s. The team will make further announcements on its Indy Car program as the situation warrants.

 

Rahal Letterman Lanigan To Fight Through Indy Car Field In Texas

DALLAS/FORT WORTH (June 10, 2011) – A strong showing at Indianapolis punched a ticket to Texas for Jay Howard (#88 Service Central Dallara/Honda/Firestone) and Rahal Letterman Lanigan, but that ticket didn’t earn the #88 entry any free passes to the front of the grid on Friday’s qualifying.

The team ended up claiming a spot on the outside of the 14th row for Saturday night’s Firestone Twin 275s at Texas Motor Speedway, putting up a two-lap average qualifying time of 211.691 mph. The qualifying result will see Howard start alongside Justin Wilson and behind Sebastien Saavedra.

“We were obviously hoping to get more speed out of the car and we worked hard on the car after the morning practice, but came up just a bit short,” Howard said. “But this team has had good cars here before and we expect to have the ability to come through the field tomorrow.”

The team ran 57 laps in the 75-minute practice session that took place this morning on the 1.5-mile high-banked TMS oval, looking to find some of the balance that had Howard contending for top rookie honors at Indy before a mechanical problem ended his promising run. The team hung up its best time of the session just two laps from the end, with a best lap of 24.7398 seconds (211.724 mph).

“We’re disappointed to be sure, as we expect to come out and be competitive and to start this deep in the pack represents a challenge for our entire team,” said RLL Chief Operating Officer Scott Roembke. “But we will work through it, get Jay what he needs and work on making up positions at every opportunity.”

Tomorrow night’s event at the Texas Motor Speedway will feature a pair of races in the same evening, the first time that such a format has been used in Indy Car racing since 1981. Both races will cover 114 laps, but today’s qualifying just sets the starting grid for the first of the two races. The grid for the second race will be determined by a blind draw, which will be conducted in the intermission between the two events. Such a format could be detrimental to a team trying to come through the field, but the dual-race format and the unpredictability of racing at TMS means that anything can happen.

“From where we are, we will need to pick up some ground early but you don’t want to do anything stupid because you have a long night ahead of you – and you need to be around at the end,” Howard said. “If we can keep our nose clean and avoid any trouble at the start, we can pick our way toward the front. The old saying in racing is that you can’t win a race in the first corner but you can lose it there. Well tomorrow, you can lose TWO races in the first turn! The guys will give us great pit stops and I just need to take advantage of any opportunities I can in the race car to make up ground.”

Both of the Firestone Twin 275s will be televised live tomorrow from TMS, with full coverage beginning on Versus at 7 p.m.

 

Rahal Letterman Lanigan Ready To Play Two At Texas Indy Car Race

HILLIARD, Ohio (June 7, 2011) – It is not immediately known whether Chicago Cubs Hall of Fame shortstop Ernie Banks ever drove a race car, but his famed “Let’s Play Two’ rallying cry will be Saturday’s night’s theme for Rahal Letterman Lanigan and driver Jay Howard.

For the first time since 1981, Indy cars will contest two races on the same date as Saturday evening sees Texas Motor Speedway play host to the Firestone Twin 275s on the demanding high-banked 1.5-mile oval in Fort Worth. The historic occasion features one 114-lap event beginning at 7:45 p.m. Central Time with another to follow at approximately 9:45. To throw an added twist into the mix, the starting grid for the second race is slated to be set by a blind draw to be held upon the conclusion of the first race.

For RLL, the evening marks another forward step as it builds on a positive showing at Indianapolis two weeks ago. The Texas event is the first Indy Car Series event other than the Indianapolis 500 that the team has contested since 2008, and the Ohio-based squad will do so by again partnering with Sam Schmidt Motorsports to field the #88 Service Central SSM/RLL Dallara/Honda/Firestone for Jay Howard. Howard, who had a promising run at the 500 dashed by a loose wheel, will make his second start at Texas, having run with Sarah Fisher Racing one season ago.

“I am excited to be going to Texas, I lived in Dallas for a short time, so it’s nice to visit again,” Howard said. “The new format is going to be cool, and just like the double file restarts, will make for exciting racing especially in race 2!”

Rahal Letterman Lanigan has reason to be optimistic about its sojourn to Texas as well. The team won the pole in 2007 and had a realistic chance to win the race in 2008 with Ryan Hunter-Reay, before he and Marco Andretti tangled with five laps to go while fighting for second place behind eventual race winner Scott Dixon.

“We have had fast cars at Texas and it is a place that suits our team well,” said RLL Senior VP of Operations Scott Roembke. “We were very encouraged by how racy Jay Howard was at Indianapolis and we expect to represent ourselves and Service Central well this weekend. This will be an interesting event. With only an hour between races, keeping your nose clean will go a long way toward determining what kind of night you will have, but you have to go hard because there are 25 other cars that will be charging all night long.”

Things get underway on Friday at Texas Motor Speedway with a 75-minute practice session leading into single-car qualifying at 3:45 p.m. The teams will have another 30-minute practice outing after qualifying, which will set the stage for Saturday’s races. The event will both be televised live on Versus with coverage slated to begin at 7:30 p.m. Eastern Time.

Rahal Letterman Lanigan Builds On Strong Indy Run, Enters Jay Howard in Texas Doubleheader

HILLIARD, Ohio (June 3, 2011) – Rahal Letterman Lanigan turned some heads at last week’s Indianapolis 500 when its two-car team put in promising outings, but more importantly, the strong showing earned the team and one of its drivers an opportunity to build on that promise in next Saturday’s Firestone Twin 275s at Texas Motor Speedway.

Jay Howard (#88 Service Central SSM/RLL Dallara/Honda/Firestone) will reprise his role as the driver of the Sam Schmidt Motorsports/RLL entry that he piloted to a spot in the top half of the field early in the Indy 500. His day was cut short by a Lap 62 crash triggered by a loose wheel as he came off of Pit Lane, leaving him to finish 30th in his first Indy start. Encouraged by his speedy showing through the initial stages of the race, Service Central, Sam Schmidt Motorsports and Rahal Letterman Lanigan worked diligently to get Howard another opportunity to drive the #88 Indy Car.

“Service Central has believed in me from the start and it's very exciting to return with them to the Texas Motor Speedway,” Howard said. “Our Indy 500 effort was strong all month long and to have it end the way it did was unfortunate. We are looking ahead to Texas and plan another hard-fought effort with Rahal Letterman Lanigan. I must thank the entire group at TBC Retail Group and their 4 retail brands – NTB, Big O Tires, Tire Kingdom and Merchant Tires for the opportunity.”

“Jay had a fantastic run going at the Indy 500, but it just wasn't meant to be,” said Schmidt. “We really appreciate the support of Service Central and their brands that are making it possible for Jay to have another shot at Texas.”

Howard is part of a field that will make Indy Car history as the series contests two separate races on the same day for the first time since 1981 (Atlanta, both races won by Rick Mears). The grid for the first race will be set by traditional qualifying, which takes place on Friday, June 10. The starting lineup for the second race will be determined by a blind draw to be held at the end of the first event.

“We are entering into an event where anything can happen, but as we showed in Indianapolis, our team is ready for anything that does happen,” said RLL co-owner Bobby Rahal. “Jay impressed us on race day and we are very optimistic that he can have another good weekend for us in Texas.”

Despite having just 10 starts on his Indy Car ledger, Howard has experience on the high-banked Texas oval. The 2006 Firestone Indy Lights champion competed there a year ago with Sarah Fisher Racing, but was sidelined with mechanical trouble after 37 laps and ended up finishing 26th.

“It was great to watch Jay put in a great run at Indy where he gained a lot of positions. Sadly, it wasn't the finish we were hoping for,” said Orland Wolford, CEO, TBC Retail Group. “We took this opportunity to put him back on the track because we are confident he and his team have what it takes to stand in the victory lane.”

The Firestone Twin 275 weekend gets underway Thursday with an autograph session at the Macy’s store in the Northpark Mall. Practice starts at 12:30 on Friday, with qualifying at 3:45. The first 114-lap race begins at 7:45 p.m. with the second slated for 9:45. Both races can be seen live on Versus.

 

Bertrand Baguette Finishes Seventh At Indy, Promising Run For Jay Howard Ends Early

INDIANAPOLIS (May 29, 2011) – The fuel crisis never hit closer to home than it did on a balmy Sunday afternoon for Rahal Letterman Lanigan at the Indianapolis 500. Bertrand Baguette (#30 RACB/Aspria Dallara/Honda/Firestone) used a strong race car and shrewd pit strategy to hold the lead in the Indy 500 with three laps to go, but had to pit for a late splash of fuel that forced him to give up the point, leaving the Belgian to finish a strong seventh in just his second Memorial Day classic.

Jay Howard (#88 Service Central Dallara/Honda/Firestone) also had a good day and was running as the fastest rookie of the race before he fell victim to a loose wheel after a lap 62 pit stop. Howard came from 20th on the starting grid and had moved into the top 15 when the car lost a wheel coming out of the pits, forcing Howard into the wall and leaving him to finish 30th.

“Today’s effort shows that our team is still competitive with the best teams in Indy Car,” said team’s chief operating officer Scott Roembke. “To come in here with two strong cars and have a chance to win at the end gives us great reason to be optimistic for the future.”

Baguette and Howard both showed great speed early on, with both drivers making up five spots in the first 25 laps and holding their spots up until Howard’s fateful pit stop.

“We were having a great race, all the guys did a great job, we had a great car and I was having a lot of fun out there,” Howard said. “We lost a right rear wheel and that was it but it was shaping up to be a great day for us. Thanks to the Service Central guys and Rahal Letterman Lanigan for a good car.”

But the story of the day was the 25-year-old Belgian, who nearly joined team owner Bobby Rahal as an Indianapolis 500 winner. On an alternate fuel strategy, which ironically started as a result of Howard’s misfortune, Baguette grabbed the lead of the race with a Turn One pass of Danica Patrick with 11 laps to go, and held it until he had to pit with just three laps to go. His quick trip down Pit Lane allowed him to rejoin the field without giving up much ground, sparking him to a seventh-place finish.

“We had a great strategy and we really had a quick car today,” Baguette said. “It was crazy, to be leading the 100th anniversary of the Indy 500, it was unbelievable! We knew that we couldn’t save enough fuel to get to the end, so I just had to go for it and hope for a yellow, but it didn’t come. It was a great day for us.”

Running 10th when the second round of stops started, Baguette had yet to pit when the caution came out for Howard. But he was low on fuel and had to stop before the pits were open, which meant that by rule, he had to come back in again once the pits opened. That dropped him back to 15th, and set the wheels in motion for the strategy that nearly gave him the race.

The strategy showed its first signs of paying off on Lap 139 when Baguette took the lead briefly before his Lap 140 stop. He then stopped again on a Lap 150 caution for Alex Tagliani and again on Lap 160 after a three-car incident, while the top nine cars stayed out. Those cars would eventually peel off for their needed stops, helping Baguette’s march to the front, but the Belgian also took care of business on track, passing five other cars on his way to the front. His seventh-place finish was the third top-seven in the last five years at Indy for the team, and his 11 laps led were the most for the team at Indy since 2005.

Rahal Letterman Lanigan Completes On-Track Preparations For Sunday’s Indianapolis 500

 

INDIANAPOLIS (May 27, 2011) – Rahal Letterman Lanigan has officially done all it can do on the 2.5-mile Indianapolis Motor Speedway oval to prepare for Sunday’s running of the Indianapolis 500, today completing the final Indy Car practice session for Sunday’s centennial Indy 500.

Having qualified in the middle of Row Five for Sunday’s race, Bertrand Baguette (#30 RACB/Aspria Dallara/Honda/Firestone) spent much of the hour-long Carb Day session running practice pit stops and gathering as much information as he could about the car despite the fact that Friday’s weather was nearly 20 degrees colder than it is forecast to be on Race Day.

“It was a short session for us to see if everything was OK with the car, but we couldn’t work on much because the conditions will be so different on Sunday,” Baguette said after completing 40 laps with a top speed of 222.678 mph (40.4171 seconds). “We did some running in traffic and the car felt good. The Firestone tires gave me great grip and performance today and helped to boost our confidence for the race.”

Jay Howard (#88 Service Central Dallara/Honda/Firestone) spent Carb Day running on full fuel tanks, working on getting the car to work in traffic, as the Englishmen plots his strategy for moving up from his starting spot on the outside of Row Seven. Howard ran 25 laps with a best orbit of 223.041 mph (40.3514 seconds)

“This is the first time that I have run full tanks in this car and I was very happy with the way the car handled,” Howard said. “We are still looking for a little balance on the car, but we got some good information and we should be able to make the necessary adjustments to be good in the race. The Rahal Letterman Lanigan guys have been working very hard all month to get this Service Central car toward the front of the grid and I am confident that we will have a good car on Sunday.”

The team will spend the remainder of Friday and Saturday going over every inch of the Indy Cars, tearing them down and checking every nut, bolt and fitting to ensure that the cars are ready for 500 grueling miles on Sunday. Howard and Baguette will participate in the 500 Festival Parade tomorrow afternoon and will be set to take the green flag for the Indy 500 at noon on Sunday. Fans can follow all of the action live on ABC, or on their local IMS Radio Network affiliate.

Today’s 100th anniversary Indy 500 fun fact

Bobby Rahal won the 1986 Indy 500, beating Kevin Cogan with a late-race pass. Bobby set the fastest race lap on the 200th and last lap of the race to seal the victory. This marks the only time since IMS started logging fastest race laps in the 1950s that the fastest lap of the race occurred on the final trip around the race track.

 

 

Rahal Letterman Lanigan Gets Both Cars in Indy 500 Field on First Qualifying Day

INDIANAPOLIS (May 21, 2011) – The first day of qualifying for the Indianapolis 500 didn’t go exactly as planned for Rahal Letterman Lanigan, but the team had a strong day nonetheless, putting both cars in the top 24 in the first round of qualifying, provisionally putting them both in the field for next Sunday’s Indy 500.

After running top-five speeds yesterday, Bertrand Baguette (#30 RACB/Aspria Dallara/Honda/Firestone) went out early in qualifying today and posted four laps around the 2.5-mile Indianapolis Motor Speedway oval at an average speed of 225.285 mph. And while that speed wasn’t what he was hoping for, it was still good enough for 14th on the time charts and a berth in the middle of Row Five.

“We are in the race and that’s the most important part of the day for us,” Baguette said. “But I feel that we are all a little disappointed with the speed, since we were able to do so much in the last couple days with the car. We were targeting a berth in the Fast Nine, and will feel we had to car to get there, which is why we are a little disappointed. But at the end of the day, we are in the race, in a good spot, and are ready to go.’

Jay Howard (#88 Service Central Dallara/Honda/Firestone) had an equally good day in his Sam Schmidt/RLL Indy Car, taking the 21st spot on the speed sheets (224.488 mph), provisionally giving the Englishman a spot on the outside of Row Seven – but more importantly, bringing him a step closer to earning a spot in his very first Indy 500.

“I’m over the moon about how our day went and am very glad to be in the Indianapolis 500,” grinned Howard. “The run was interesting and I had to use my tools during my run to keep everything where we wanted it, but we were able to keep everything going and put up a good time. It’s great because now we can work on the race car tomorrow and hopefully not have to worry about any more qualifying setups.”

The top 24 speeds today earned spots in the May 29 race, while positions 25-33 will be locked down in tomorrow’s Bump Day qualifying. But despite getting a spot in the race today, there is still a danger for some of today’s qualified cars to be bumped tomorrow and be forced to re-qualify.

Once the field is populated with 33 cars tomorrow, the entry with the slowest speed becomes the bubble car, regardless of whether it posted its time Saturday or Sunday. Right now it means that 13 cars would need to go faster than Howard’s time in order to knock Howard out of the field, and 20 cars would have to be faster than Baguette in order to take his spot.

Today’s 100th anniversary Indy 500 fun fact

Six drivers have led more than 75 percent of the laps in a given Indianapolis 500 and failed to win the race. The last time it happened was in 1992 when Michael Andretti led 160 laps before falling out. Ironically, the last time it had happened previous to that—it was done by his father Mario Andretti in1987.

 

Rahal Letterman Lanigan Prepared For Weekend Indy 500 Qualifying

INDIANAPOLIS (May 20, 2011) – Seven days of practice seemed like a lot of track time as preparations began last week for this year’s Indianapolis 500. And while rains washed out nearly half of the scheduled practice time, it didn’t make a dent in tomorrow’s qualifying schedule, leaving teams just one more day to get their Indy cars ready for pole qualifying. With that in mind, Rahal Letterman Lanigan went out and got ready, topping 228 mph for the first time all month in Friday’s practice session.

Both Bertrand Baguette (#30 RACB/Aspria Dallara/Honda/Firestone) and Jay Howard (#88 Service Central Dallara/Honda/Firestone) their best days of the month as they got ready for their four-lap qualifying attempts around the 2.5-mile IMS oval tomorrow.

Baguette carded his best lap ever here at Indy as the Belgian clocked a top time of 228.028 mph (39.4688 seconds). The time, which was the team’s best of the month on either of its two cars, put Baguette in the fifth spot on the speed sheets after today’s six-hour practice session. He ran 49 laps in all today, and posted his best time on the 48th of those 49 laps.

“We are extremely pleased with how things went today and I think that we had a really good day,”  Baguette said. “We worked a lot on our qualifying setup and we found many good things in the car. At the end of the day, the car was really quick and consistent and that’s what we were looking for. Now we just have to do it again tomorrow.”

Howard, who is looking to earn a berth in his first Indy 500, fought all day long again, and again reaped the rewards late in the session carding a best lap of 225.360 mph (39.9361 seconds). He turned 37 laps, with his top effort coming on the last of his 37 passes

“We tried a lot of things with our car today, some of them worked, some of them didn’t, some of them we will use tomorrow as well,” quipped Howard. “We have decent speed, but we can’t get comfortable yet. It’s going to be a long day tomorrow and we hope to do as well tomorrow as we have all week.”

The Rahal Letterman Lanigan cars will spend the night working on the cars, getting them ready for tomorrow’s qualifying. The team will have the benefit of 90 minutes of practice tomorrow morning, prior to the 11 a.m. start of single-car qualifying. Each team will have a place in line based on a random draw, which sets the order for the first round of qualifying only. After a team makes its first run, it can get back in line for another run as conditions warrant,  up until 4 p.m. After 4 p.m., the fastest nine cars will then re-qualify in a shootout style competition to determine the polesitter and the front row for the May 29th 100th anniversary running of the Indy 500.

Today’s 100th anniversary Indy 500 fun fact

In 1960, Jack Brabham became the first F1 World Champion to run the Indy 500. Alberto Ascari ran Indy in 1952, which was the year he won the F1 championship, but he had not yet been crowned champion.  Ascari finished 31st at Indy—the only race he failed to win all season long!