Jakes to race for Rahal Letterman Lanigan
6 February 2013
James Jakes has been signed up to partner Graham Rahal in a second full-time seat at Rahal Letterman Lanigan in 2013, the team announced on Tuesday.
"I am really pleased that James is joining our team," said Bobby Rahal, who co-owns RLL along with TV interviewer David Letterman and Mi-Jack co-owner Mike Lanigan.
"I have seen him run competitively on numerous occasions and have felt all along that given the environment we can create for him, he can achieve the success he has sought in Indy car racing, " added Rahal. "He and Graham get along and communicate well and I think that is important for the team. We're pleased to have him and we think it will be a good combination."
It will be Jakes' third season in the series. He originally transferred to the IZOD IndyCar Series at the start of 2011 to partner Sebastien Bourdais at Dale Coyne Racing. He stayed with the team in 2012, joined this time by Justin Wilson, but has been lured away this year by the offer from RLL.
"I wanted to put myself in a position where I could get results that I believe I am capable of and Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing is a good fit for me," said Jakes, who had originally been set for a season in GP2 in 2011 before getting the call from the US.
"I had negotiated with Bobby when I first came to the series but we weren't able to put a program together until now<" said Jakes. "It will be great for the team to have two full-season cars to move ourselves forward and push us to where Bobby and the team want us to be - at the top of the grid."
Rahal has been wanting to run a two-car team in 2013 - for the first time since Scott Sharp and Ryan Hunter-Reay paired up in 2007 - and duly investigating various options of who would drive the second entry, which will be sponsored by Acorn Stairlifts.
"For us to be a two-car team is a natural progression," Rahal said. "A year ago we restarted the team to really build toward this time. We positioned ourselves in Indianapolis to take advantage of everything the open-wheel industry can provide us with and obviously, as was proven last year, a one-car team can be competitive.
"But there is no doubt in my mind that a two-car team is a much more efficient and productive way to go racing," the team co-owner continued. "There is twice as much information, twice as much everything, and that helps you progress that much quicker."
But to many in the industry, RLL's selection of the 25-year-old driver from Leeds will come as something of a surprise. In his 31 races to date in the IndyCar, Jakes' best result was eighth place in last year's street race in Toronto, coming just weeks after his first top ten result in the championship at Texas Motor Speedway.
"James is obviously an aggressive, competitive driver and I think that having both he and Graham on board raises the performance of the team as a whole," insisted Rahal.
But although he's had a quiet first two years in IndyCar, he's also been consistent finisher and was notably improving throughout his sophomore season. Before his move to the States, he had successful stints in the British Formula 3 Series and Formula 3 Euro Series in 2007-2008, followed by appearances in the GP2 Asia Series and a full season in GP3. He finished the latter in eighth place in the final standings, despite missing four races because of injury.
As well as Jakes and Graham Rahal, the team has announced that it will also enter another British driver - Mike Conway - into the Long Beach event in April. Conway won the event in 2011 and raced for AJ Foyt Racing in 2012 but announced at the end of last year that he was no longer happy competing on ovals; RLL has indicated that they hope to run Conway in more road and street courses in the upcoming season in the financial arrangements fall into place.
Dale Coyne Racing has not formally announced any drivers for the new season, although it is expected to retain Justin Wilson in one of the cars for a second season. Wilson won last year's event at Texas for Dale Coyne, although the victory was slightly marred by post-race penalties for illegal bodywork being run on the car.
IN other team news, it's expected that EJ Viso will be added to the Andretti Autosport line-up in 2013. The Venezuelan driver - who has completed five years in IndyCar, two with HVM and most recently a hat-trick of seasons at KV Racing Technology - would be in a fourth Andretti car, as the team will be keeping Marco Andretti and James Hinchcliffe alongside their newly crowned champion Ryan Hunter-Reay for the new season.
The biggest name currently without an announced deal for the new season is Ryan Briscoe, who may be running out of options as it seems that Team Penske is being forced to downsize to a two=car operation this season with Will Power and Helio Castroneves already confirmed in the two cars.