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Rahal team edges toward full 2012 season

4 November 2011

The Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing team is remaining tight-lipped about its plans for the 2012 IZOD IndyCar Series, but developments on both chassis and engines fronts as well as the signing of a new President of Racing Operations suggests a return to full-season competition might be on the horizon for the organisation.

On Thursday, the team confirmed that they had signed up with Honda for engines in 2012, when the series switches to a new turbocharged V6 engine specification, and Chevrolet and Lotus return to the series as engine suppliers in competition with Honda who have had an exclusive position since the end of 2005.

"We are pleased to once again be partnering with Honda," said team co-owner Bobby Rahal. "In putting together our plans for 2012, we felt that having the full support of a proven winner such as Honda would aid us in building a strong program and we intend to represent Honda in the best manner possible."

RLL was Honda's first partner when the manufacturer joined the CART series in 1994, and scored Honda's first podium position when Rahal himself finished in second in Toronto that season. The team subsequently helped Honda to their first Indianapolis 500 victory in 2004, with Buddy Rice at the wheel.

"Many fans already know that the roots of Honda's relationship with Bobby Rahal and his team extend to our initial entry into American open-wheel racing in the early 1990s," said Erik Berkman, the president of Honda Performance Development. "We're looking forward to continuing our long and successful relationship with Rahal Letterman Lanigan as IndyCar begins a new era of multi-manufacturer competition in 2012."

"We have a storied history with Honda and respect its tradition of excellence in motorsports," agreed Rahal.

It was also reported in the media earlier in the week that RLL had placed an order for two of the new DW12 IndyCar Safety Cell chassis from Dallara that all teams in the series will be running from the start of 2012.

This week the team also confirmed that they had hired the veteran Tom Anderson as President of Racing Operations for the RLL team next season. Anderson was Managing Director at Chip Ganassi Racing in the 1990s before joining driver Adrian Fernandez' start-up outfit for nine seasons from 2001. The teams he has managed have garnered six series championships and three Indy 500 victories.

"I have known Tom since the Can-Am days in the 1970s and have always respected and admired how he went about his business," said Rahal. "I look forward to working with Tom and raising the competitive level of all aspects of the team."

Anderson will be in charge of the team's defence of its three current American Le Mans Series BMW GT championships, as well as taking "a lead role in ramping up toward an anticipated return to the IZOD Indy Car Series."

"I am extremely excited to be a part of the expanding program at Rahal Letterman Lanigan," said Anderson. "They have a championship-winning team in the ALMS and what we want to do is to continue that success and build the Indy Car side to enable it to match their sportscar prowess.

Despite all the announcements and the obvious 'direction of travel' that it indicates, the RLL team has not yet confirmed that it will be returning to full-time competition in 2011. RLL has four wins, ten poles, 19 podiums and 39 top-five finishes in its long history in US open wheel racing, but has not competed full time since 2008.

In 2011, RLL ran Jay Howard, Bertrand Baguette and Pippa Mann in several oval events including Kentucky, Texas and of course Indianapolis. Howard and Mann were both driving in the season finale at Vegas, with Mann injured in the multi-car wreck on lap 12 that resulted in the race being abandoned after Dan Wheldon subsequently died.

At this point, RLL are refusing to be drawn further on their plans for 2012, with the team statement simply saying that the team "is currently finalising its program for 2012 and beyond, and will be announcing its sponsor and driver lineup in the coming months."

Bobby Rahal added: "We are in conversations with several drivers and having Honda as a partner is obviously a plus for anyone driving for our team.

"There are some very talented drivers available for 2012 and we are working very hard to put together the strongest package possible for our partners, sponsors and fans."


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