Bobby Rahal on 50 Years of Mid-Ohio Memories

Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing – 21st Season
Pre-Race Notes
Honda Indy 200 – Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course
Round 12 of 15 in the 2012 IZOD IndyCar Series


DATE:                                      August 3-5, 2012
QUALIFYING BROADCAST:  LIVE on (timing & scoring with audio commentary)
RACE BROADCAST:              Live on Sunday, August 5 at 12:30 p.m. ET on ABC
RADIO BROADCAST:             The race will air on IMS Radio Network, SiriusXM (XM 94 & Sirius 212)
TRACK LAYOUT:                    2.258-mile, 13-turn road course
RACE LENGTH:                       85 laps / 191.25 miles
2011 WINNER:                         Scott Dixon
2011 POLESITTER:                 Scott Dixon (119.405 mph)
ROAD/STREET START:          Pole at Edmonton in 2011
ROAD/STREET FINISH:          2nd at Edmonton 2012 (4th at Mid-Ohio 2011 was best prior to 2012 with RLL)
SATO AT MID-OHIO:               In two events here, Sato’s best start is 3rd in 2010 and best finish is 4th in 2011
FINISH AT MID-OHIO:             Highest start is pole (Herta – 1997); highest finish is 3rd (Rahal – 1997, ’98)


The Honda Indy 200 will mark the 15th Indy car event for Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing (RLL) here and first since 2008 when Ryan Hunter-Reay started 15th and finished 10th for the team. The team also competed in the Atlantic Series race here in 2003 with Danica Patrick, has competed in ALMS races here in 2007 and from 2009-2011 and one SCCA event in 2008 as part of the ALMS weekend.  The highest IndyCar finish for the team here is two third place finishes (Rahal 1997, 1998) and the highest start is pole (Herta 1997).  Another front row start came in 1999 (Herta; 2nd).  Prior to the 2012 event, the team prepared a total of 23 Indy car entries for drivers Bobby Rahal (1992-98), Mike Groff (1994), Raul Boesel (1995), Bryan Herta (1996-99), Max Papis (1999-2001), Jimmy Vasser (2002), Michel Jourdain Jr. (2002-03) and Ryan Hunter-Reay (2007-2008). The team also prepared a Toyota Atlantic entry (Danica Patrick 2003), seven entries for ALMS events in 2007 and 2009-2011, and one SCCA entry in 2007 (details available upon request).  The team has earned TWO Indy car podiums (3rd – Rahal 1997, 1998), 9 top-five’s and 13 top-10 Indy car finishes at the track as well as three ALMS podiums (3rd – 2009, 2010, 2011).  The No. 15 entry for Takuma Sato will bring the Indy car total to 24 entries in 2012.

Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course has been a part of Bobby Rahal’s life since he was a child.  He was inspired by his experiences at the track and went on to compete in races there, including 16 Indy car events from 1983-1998.  Nine of those races were as a driver and the following seven were as a team owner/driver.  He won two Indy car races (1985 from pole, 1986), two poles (1983, 1985), made three front row starts (2nd in 1987), finished on the podium in eight of his 16 races for a 50 percent average, and earned 9 top-fives and 11 top-10 finishes.

Before being relocated to an Indianapolis suburb this season, the Indy car operation was based in Hilliard, Ohio, 50 miles from the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.  The championship-winning ALMS program – BMW Team RLL – is still based there.  Bobby shared a few memories of his time at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in advance of Saturday’s Mid-Ohio Sports Car Challenge ALMS race and Sunday’s Honda Indy 200 IZOD IndyCar Series event.

“When I was driving into Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course today, I was thinking that it was the 50th year I have been coming here. My father was here for the first ever race in 1962 and I came as a little kid. I don’t know if I have been to Mid-Ohio every year since then but it has to be pretty close.  Personally I have some big wins here. Brian Redman and I drove here in the 1979 Lumberman race which was a ‘You bring it, you run it’ sort of race and won it and I think I won more prize money in that than I did in most Indy car races until I won the Indy 500 in 1986.  If I look back, winning two Indy car races here in a row, the Lumberman’s 500 with Redman and then I won again later on with Jim Trueman in 1983; I have a lot of success here over the years. It’s a special place for me.
“In the old days, you couldn’t run here until you were 21 years old even though every where else was 18.  Having said that, when I finally did get to run at Mid-Ohio in 1974, I loved the track and was immediately successful. And then my mentor Jim Trueman bought the track in 1982, and he certainly transformed it from being just a race track to a place that was great for spectators. Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course has really been part of the fabric of my life; coming here as a kid with his father to being a professional.
“My experiences at Mid-Ohio, for sure, are part of what inspired me to be a professional race car driver. I would come to the track to watch Can Am races while in college because my university (DenisonUniversity) is only about 30 miles south.  And we came here a lot in part because my grandparents lived in northern Ohio so it was a place we always went to. I saw a lot of great racing at Mid-Ohio — Can-Am, USRC, Formula 5000 — you name it. It’s certainly one of the better circuits in North America.”

Rahal finished on the podium six times in nine races as a driver (1983-1991) and went on to compete seven more times once he founded what is now Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing.  He sites his immediate enjoyment of the track as a key to his success here.
“I’m not sure what led to the success at Mid-Ohio; I just always liked the track. I should have won three (IndyCar races) in a row instead of two. In 1987 I made a mistake and tried to pass a guy I was lapping and he came down on me and flattened the tire with a few laps to go and (Roberto) Guerrero won instead and I had been well in the lead.  When I first came to Mid-Ohio in 1974 and drove my first race here, I won and have liked the track ever since then.  A very good driver in a less-than-competitive car can still make a difference here. Aside from that, physically it is by far one of the most – if not THE most — demanding tracks in Indy car racing. They say ‘horses for courses’ and I guess this is one of my courses.”

Although the team has 20 Indy car wins, it has yet to earn one at Mid-Ohio.  In addition, the ALMS team has finished third each of the past three years at Mid-Ohio. A win here would be his first as a team co-owner as well as his first since he won here in 1986.
“It would great to win at Mid-Ohio. We have certainly been competitive over the years in the races we have run here. When you have had success as a driver here, you think you could have the same success as a team.  Unfortunately it hasn’t been that way. We have been in a position to win races here; we just have to finish it off.  We qualified well here with BMW Team RLL but struggled during the race on occasion. It’s a tough track. In Indy car, the same thing could be said.  We have to do the whole job; not just part of it. I’m looking forward to another go at it!”

“I think Takuma can be a contender at Mid-Ohio this year. He finished well here last year and I think this is his kind of track so absolutely I think he can be a contender in the race, especially if we run a race like we did in the last race in Edmonton. I don’t think there is any doubt we can be competitive; I’m certainly optimistic. We tested last week and found some things out which gave us a good place to start for race weekend. I don’t see any reason why we can’t be competitive.”

– RLL –