Rahal Letterman Racing has been Christmas shopping in California as it bids to find the perfect Holy Grail combination of speed and handling that will help deliver the gift of victory next year.

The Columbus-based outfit's #17 Ethanol Dallara/Honda/Firestone machine hit the track at Infineon Raceway in Sonoma - the first test building up to the 2008 campaign - taking advantage of a full day's running following the cancellation of the previous day due to rain. The team worked through myriad car changes on both short and long runs, focussing on brakes, suspension, weight distribution, shocks and wings.

Reigning IndyCar Series Rookie of the Year Ryan Hunter-Reay got a jump on his preparations by completing more than 200 miles without a single problem, and was pleased with the potential of the car, despite only really going for a time on his final two runs.

"The guys really worked hard, we got a lot of things done on the car and made a lot of gains," remarked the 26-year-old, who competed at Infineon earlier this year for the first time in his career. "We only tuned our car to the track during the last two runs and still got down into the 77s at the end of the day, which I am pleased with."

RLR shared the 2.236-mile track with Target Chip Ganassi Racing, getting to grips with a new layout featuring some changes in the turn seven area designed to present more passing opportunities.

"We feel pretty good about what we were able to get done, given what we had in front of us," affirmed RLR IndyCar team manager Steve Dickson. "It was tough with the weather, but Ryan and the guys buckled down and got through it. We made a lot of good changes in some areas where we struggled last year, so we feel good."

The IndyCar Series will hold open testing at both Homestead and Sebring in Florida in early 2008, ahead of the 2008 curtain-raiser in St. Petersburg.



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