INDIANAPOLIS – Graham Rahal wanted it and now he’s got it for the next three Verizon IndyCar Series races: a teammate.
A rough start to the Verizon IndyCar Series season has the Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing driver 13th in the championships standings after five races, but just 10 points out from 10th place. Rahal attributes much of the struggle to RLL being single-car team most of the time and not gathering the wealth of on-track data that multi-car teams do on a race weekend.
Hope as come to RLL for the 101st Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil in the form of veteran Oriol Servia. The 42-year-old Spaniard will make his 200th career Indy car start in the May 28 race in the No. 16 Manitowoc Honda, and will follow that up by competing in both races of the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix presented by Lear the following weekend.
Servia and Rahal are no strangers, pairing for the Indy 500 with RLL in 2014 and ’15. Including a 2009 Indy 500 start with the team, three of Servia’s eight appearances at “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing” have been with the Brownsburg, Indiana-based outfit.
Rahal didn’t hide his appreciation for having Servia back with the team when the two drivers and team co-owners Bobby Rahal and Mike Lanigan met with media Friday, the day before qualifying for the race began.
“It's been awesome to have Oriol because I think, from the first laps that we turned, our feel of the car was identical,” said Rahal, driver of the No. 15 Steak ‘n Shake Honda. “And to have just a guy like Oriol confirm that – not that anybody in this team ever doubts each other or doubts me or anything else – but it helps a lot that we can then hammer on down the same path, work on the car, try to achieve the same goals.
“As a single car, that's more difficult, for sure. But when we started out, right away we felt the exact same things in the same corners and everything. So it was nice to be able to work on that. Have we completely solved some of those issues? No, but I think we've made a lot of big strides.”
Rahal teamed at last year’s Indianapolis 500 with then-rookie Spencer Pigot. While stressing Pigot’s talent, Rahal has admitted to the difficulty in gathering as much valuable data when the second car’s driver is inexperienced. It’s why he wanted Servia back in the fold this time around.
“Oriol is a great addition and I think Dad will tell you that I have continuously pushed to try to get him here with us,” Rahal said. “We don't just need anybody here driving the second car. It's extremely beneficial to have a guy like Oriol with the experience. Our feel has always been the same, honestly, on any sort of circuit. What I've needed out of the car, he has, too.”
Servia’s last full season was in 2012 with Panther/Dreyer & Reinbold Racing, the same year he finished a career-best fourth in the Indianapolis 500. He returned the compliments when talking about his teammate.
“Graham is always the most gracious with me,” said Servia. “I am a good teammate, but because he is a good teammate. You cannot be a good teammate to a not-good teammate. You guys know he is a very mature guy. He's been a mature guy for a long time. And as a driver, he's been mature for a long time.
“We both understand that, in order to be up front, you need to work well with your teammate or you're not going to beat other teams. And, honestly, many of the teams out there that are multi-cars. I can tell you they say in front of you that they are good teammates, and they are not.
“That's, I think, a bullet we have against those bigger teams, that we truly work well together more than other teams. I know for a fact, so we do have a shot.”
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