It was a disappointing ending to our IndyCar season, for sure. We led the races in Baltimore and Fontana, and came away empty-handed, plus we had an engine failure at Sonoma on the third lap. That set us up for grid penalties in the last three races. It's awfully hard to make up 10 spots at least when that happens. It can be frustrating. Having said that, we had a pretty good car at Fontana, and even at Baltimore we recovered after a difficult practice and qualifying with a pretty good racecar.
To look at the long-term view, although it's disappointing now, we showed a lot of promise. For our first year back, we had a brand-new engineer who had never engineered a car for an oval track and on these courses, and I thought Gerry Hughes did a good job for us. It was a new team that came together. We didn't win any races but we were competitive at more than a few. You have to take the good out of that. Now we have a chance to really look at the car, Gerry has a year under his belt, and I think we can have a strong 2013 from a results standpoint.
Last year, we didn't get our first car until the middle of January, and the Ganassi and Penske teams had already been out running. By contrast, we're a smaller team, without the same resources in terms of personnel. So we didn't have a great chance to figure out what we had in preseason. This offseason will give us the chance to do that. There will be continuing seven-post rig and wind tunnel tests and that can provide us with a lot of information towards understanding the basic car.
We're hoping to announce our first driver very soon. We are still chasing sponsorship for our second car but make no mistake, we want two strong efforts and will work to make that happen. The second is a bit further away right now, but all it could take is the phone to ring and say, ‘Hey, let's go.' We have a couple of salespeople pounding the streets to find the support – like everyone else in the paddock!
In looking at this year, certainly, Takuma has shown he has the speed and the bravery! But now he needs to get to the end of the races more often. I think he's a very exciting guy to watch drive and we've had some very strong races with him. He gave everyone a great run at Indy and I don't fault him at all for what happened there. He was trying to win the race and who's to say he would have had a chance going into Turn 3?
But he does have to get to the finish line more often. He needs to get more disciplined and find more patience. There is no doubt in my mind that if we can collectively get him to the end, he can win races.
He likes being talked to (on the radio) – which is unique because I hated it! I couldn't drive and listen at the same time. He appreciates it, and likes getting a sense of what's going on in the race. It motivates him and keeps him mentally in the game. My coaching him helps keep his motivation and enthusiasm up. That's very much what he needs and we try to provide that to him.
This was a tough year for us in the American Le Mans Series, too, but we won the biggest race in Sebring and won again at Elkhart Lake. Both those victories were hard earned. Everybody stayed cool at Sebring as we fought through a major electrical issue about halfway through the race and we prevailed as a team. It was much more satisfying than the win from the previous year and to win two years in a row is quite a feat! In the end, your season's kind of made at Sebring, to be honest, because it's the most recognizable race.
Having said that, there are some times where there were mistakes that kept us from winning. It wasn't a perfect season by any means. But we fought through, and I think the rest of the cars caught up to where we were from a year ago. Maybe they had surpassed us in some areas. It's still been a good year and we have one big race left we'd like to win.
The coming together of the series couldn't be better news. It's like IndyCar – sports cars needed to be together and it is now. It gives leverage in the marketplace. We're very excited about the future and we plan to be a part of it.
They have made it very clear the GT class will remain as is, which I am very pleased about. After all,. they'd have been foolish to mess with that category because frankly it's the best category of endurance racing out there right now. We're fortunate for that. What happens with the other categories, who knows – and I feel for those guys. Somebody will feel pain somewhere.
We're working closely with BMW – we're happy with them and I'm sure they're happy with us. It's been a very strong partnership; I expect it will continue.
On a couple other notes, Michel Jourdain ran the Chicago Marathon in three hours, nine minutes! That's a seven-minute-mile pace. We watched it not far from my house in Chicago but, because there were so many people watching, we unfortunately missed seeing Michel go by. It's a tremendous accomplishment to finish, let alone run at that pace!
And how about Alex Zanardi at the Paralympic Games? It's so wonderful for Alex. That guy is something else. He's a true hero in my mind. Anyone who's suffered those kind of injuries but keeps going like he has just shows you your life isn't over, and you can go on and do great things. In fact there were several vets in the wheelchair section of the marathon and I can't help but think Alex's example has helped them go forward. I'm so proud of him.
However, losing Scott (Roembke) is a real shame, and we'll miss him. He's had a real fight on his hands for several years and it really took a toll on him. He got back to Indy this year, which was his goal, but unfortunately the toll on his body was just too great. Indy car racing has lost a real advocate and passionate historian. In fact we always had bets he could teach Donald Davidson a few things!
He was a real great guy, a real asset for me and our team. His passion was racing, especially Indy car racing. But he's left a real strong legacy for racing, and for our team. And we have collectively asked ourselves now and in the future, "what would Scott say".
Thanks for reading.
Bobby Rahal and Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing competes with Takuma Sato in the No. 15 Dallara-Honda in the IZOD IndyCar Series and with two BMW M3s in the American Le Mans Series. To learn more about the team, go to www.rahal.com. Rahal is also on Twitter at @BobRahal.