News that Newman/Haas Racing has shuttered its doors has put two more marquee free agents in the IndyCar free agent pool, and by default, in the frame for opportunities at Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing – which returns to IndyCar full time next year for the first time since 2008.
Bobby Rahal told RACER.com driver announcements for both of the RLL IndyCar and American Le Mans Series programs are expected later this month, but in all likelihood, before Christmas. The IndyCar side should happen first.
“We should be announcing in mid-December, so in about another week or two,” Rahal said. “It will be the first driver, first. We have one car very much ongoing and as soon as that one's tied up, we'll get the second one done.”
Rahal confirmed the drivers who ran for RLL in 2011, Bertrand Baguette, Jay Howard and Pippa Mann, are in the frame, while some other experienced IndyCar stars and some younger drivers are believed to be in the running for the Honda-powered seats.
“We're talking to many people, and there's no shortage of available drivers,” he said. “It should be somebody with experience, for sure.”
The team's ALMS program also has two openings for the full season, with Joey Hand and Bill Auberlen set to return. However, although the two have driven as co-drivers before, it remains to be seen whether they will be paired or split between the two BMW M3s, as they have been the last two seasons.
“On the ALMS side, I think it will probably happen around Christmas,” Rahal said. “Joey and Bill are back.”
The sports car side is more likely to be determined by announcements BMW Motorsport makes regarding its DTM program for 2012. BMW already has Martin Tomczyk, Bruno Spengler, Andy Priaulx and Augusto Farfus under contract.
“For those guys contracted to BMW Motorsport, everyone is trying to get onto the DTM program,” Rahal explained. “We'll see who's there and who isn't. We might find some guys over here, and be able to use someone as a third driver. But Christmas time will be a good idea.”