INDYCAR NEWS AND NOTES – July 24, 2013By Official Release
Today’s IZOD IndyCar Series, Firestone Indy Lights and Mazda Road to Indy headlines:
1. Bourdais seeks second Brickyard Grand Prix win
2. Rahal gets new engineer in RLL personnel moves
1. Bourdais seeks second Brickyard Grand Prix win: Sebastien Bourdais already has a winner’s trophy from the Brickyard Grand Prix at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. He’s hoping to bring that same success to 8Star Motorsports.
The 34-year-old Frenchman, who won last year’s inaugural GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series race at the Brickyard, will co-drive the No. 4 Daytona Prototype with Emilio Di Guida in 8Star’s second entry.
“There’s a lot of very good and talented people at 8Star and I’m happy to be involved,” Bourdais said. “I’m very much looking forward to racing at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, obviously, having won last year’s inaugural Grand-Am race there. Indy is a pretty cool event and a cool track.”
Bourdais is riding a wave of confidence after returning to an Indy car podium at the IZOD IndyCar Series races July 13-14 at Toronto. He vaulted to 16th in the point standings after finishing second and third in the doubleheader weekend.
“I think we’ve got a really workable base to begin with now,” Bourdais said. “We’ve got some work to do and we’ll keep at it. To go from where we were to be challenging for the podium — that’s pretty sweet.”
Through 10 races that netted bests of 11th on a road/street circuit and 14th on an oval, the team released race engineer Neil Fife, who had worked with Bourdais since 2011 at Dale Coyne Racing, and added Tom Brown (who most recently had worked at HVM Racing).
“At the end of the day it’s a completely different challenge when you have to start from scratch,” said Bourdais, whose last Indy car victory was at Mexico City in 2007. “It’s a challenge to bring people onboard and try to get the right chemistry.
“Tom came with kind of an idea and we just went more and more toward that direction. It just clicked for the first qualifying. ‘Oh, OK, now we got grip. Now I can push.’ It was a pretty big eye-opener. Then we just kept working at it all weekend. Once you get closer, baby steps.”
In 2012, Bourdais had strong qualifying efforts (five top 10s, including a high of third at Sonoma) and posted a season-best fourth-place finish at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. The IZOD IndyCar Series returns to the 2.258-mile, 13-turn road course Aug. 2-4 for the Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio. Five of the final six races are on road/street circuits.
“I really thought at the end of last year that we were going to have an awesome (2013) season,” Bourdais said. “We just didn’t adapt very quickly to the new tires. Finally, I think we understood something and it’s the turnaround for our season.”
2. Rahal gets new engineer in RLL personnel moves: Gerry Hughes, who joined Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing as race engineer in March 2012, has been named head of development for the IZOD IndyCar Series program for drivers Graham Rahal and James Jakes.
Neil Fife, race engineer for the team’s most recent IndyCar win at Watkins Glen in 2008, will take over as Rahal’s engineer for the remainder of the season. Mitch Davis has joined the team as crew chief.
“I want to thank Gerry for his hard work and efforts over the past year and a half as race engineer and I’m grateful that he has taken on the new role as head of development to ensure our success in the future,” team co-owner Bobby Rahal said.
Hughes, who has a quarter century of trackside engineering experience in Formula One and GP2 among other series, worked with Rahal in the Jaguar Formula One program. He joined the team last year to be the race engineer for Takuma Sato, with whom he had worked with in the Super Aguri F1 team.
Most recently, Fife was race engineer for Sebastien Bourdais at Dragon Racing and Davis was team manager for Chip Ganassi Racing’s IndyCar program for Charlie Kimball.
“The last IndyCar race we won in 2008 with Ryan Hunter-Reay was with Neil at the helm as race engineer so it’s great to have him back,” Rahal added. “I’m confident that he and Graham will work well together and we can have a successful last third of the season. These changes will be a big plus for us going forward.”
Through 13 races in his first season with the team, Rahal has a best finish of second at Long Beach among four top-10 finishes in the No. 15 Midas/Big O Tires car. Following an IZOD IndyCar Series Open Test July 31 at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, both drivers will compete in the Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio on Aug. 4.
“Bobby has always been committed to running at the highest levels of racing and you can see that in each of his teams and their competitive efforts,” Fife said. “It is truly a challenging and competitive time in the IndyCar Series this year and together I think we can elevate the success of Graham and the team.”
The next IZOD IndyCar Series race is the Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio on Aug. 4 at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. The race will be televised live at 3 p.m. (ET) by NBC Sports Network and broadcast by the IMS Radio Network, including on Sirius and XM Channels 211, www.indycar.com and the INDYCAR 13 App for most smartphones and tablets. The next Firestone Indy Lights race is the Mid-Ohio 100 on Aug. 4 at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. The race will be televised by NBC Sports Network at 2 p.m.