Despite appearing well set to open the team's account at Laguna Seca, Graham Rahal was only able to demonstrate his personal potential as two incidents removed him from contention.

The son of CART legend Bobby Rahal was running in second place for nearly half the feature race until a spin put him off track, adding to the disappointment of seeing a handful of sprint race points go begging after an incident with the German car.

Rahal started from the pit-lane for the feature race, with the Team Lebanon crew showing its excellent teamwork by repairing fairly extensive damage from the earlier sprint race incident. The team also opted to start the race on dry tyres, one of only three teams to do so, and the move paid off when, within the first two laps, the rest of the field pitted under an early safety car.

Rahal was thus at the front for the restart, with soon-to-be champions France just behind. The French car quickly took the lead, but it was the only one that managed to pass Rahal for the ensuing 15 laps, with the American youngster showing his natural talent as he lapped quickly ahead of older, more experienced drivers. Unfortunately, damage from the earlier race affected the steering as the race progressed and, although Rahal struggled on, the problems caused two spins, the second putting him out of the race.

"I have to thank the boys for working so hard to get my car back out for the feature race," the teenager said, "We had a great start, ended up running up front and on the pace, and quicker than many of the regular race-leading cars.

"It was always going to be difficult to start from the back and get to the front, but we did it. I was happy with our performance, but not happy that we didn't finish. We'll be back trying our best again in China."

The grid for the sprint race had formed in bright sunshine but, just five minutes before the start of the race, a torrential downpour saw all teams change from dry tyres to wet. Without any wet practice sessions prior to the race, however, no-one had had a proper chance to prepare their cars for these conditions.

Team Lebanon started from its best grid position of the season, and Rahal attacked from the start, passing the cars of Germany, Australia and South Africa before the end of the first lap. Italy caused a safety car period soon after the start, with the Team Lebanon driver lying eighth. He dropped a few places after running wide, but recovered well to lie just outside the top ten, a position he retained until an incident with the German car under another safety car put Team Lebanon out of the race.

"The sprint race was really difficult - there was so little visibility, I could only really follow by the red brake lights of the car in front," Rahal reported, "We had a great start though, and passed a few cars, but the wet weather really created problems."

Team principal Tony Snook admitted to being further impressed by Rahal's ability, having first seen the youngster race in Mexico a fortnight ago, and promised an equally strong performance at the final round later this month.

"We're very proud of the team this weekend," Snook said, "Graham drove superbly and really demonstrated his potential, proving that he is now on the pace with the best drivers in the series. The crew were given a tough challenge to repair the sprint race damage before the feature race but, as always, they rose to it admirably, including giving us a very quick pit-stop, enabling us to be a major contender for points in that race. I hope that, in China, we'll fulfil the potential we have clearly shown here."

 

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