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Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing is an auto racing team that currently races in the American Le Mans Series and the IndyCar Series. Based in Hilliard, Ohio, it is co–owned by 1986 Indianapolis 500 winner Bobby Rahal, television talk show host David Letterman, and businessman Mike Lanigan.
The team was established in 1991 as Rahal-Hogan Racing, became Team Rahal in 1994, and was known as Rahal Letterman Racing from May 2004 until December 2010.
Following the 1991 CART season, Bobby Rahal left the Galles-Kraco Racing team. Despite consistent top finishes, Rahal actually won only two races from 1989-1991. Likewise, Danny Sullivan left the Patrick Racing team, following a dismal season with the Alfa Romeo engine. The two drivers essentially swapped rides. Sullivan joined Galles, and Rahal joined Patrick. By the winter of 1991, however, Patrick Racing started to collapse due to financial and legal issues regarding the Alfa Romeo engine. Rumors had surfaced that Patrick had based parts of the Alfa-Romeo engine on the Chevrolet Indycar engine.
Around December 1991, Rahal and new partner Carl Hogan acquired the assets of Patrick Racing. A new team was formed, known as Rahal-Hogan Racing. In 1992, the team won the IndyCar World Series title on their first try, with owner-driver Bobby Rahal driving the "tried-and-true" Lola-Chevrolet IndyCar.
In late 1992, Rahal-Hogan absorbed the Truesports racing team, which Rahal had been a part of from 1982-1988. The team moved its headquarters from Indianapolis to Hilliard, into the old Truesports facility. Along with the acquisition, they attempted to take over the two-year old Truesports all-American chassis program. Rahal began the season with an updated version of the Truesports chassis, with the intention of introducing a brand-new Rahal-Hogan (R/H) chassis later in the year. A second place finish at Long Beach offered some promise. The success was short-lived however, as the chassis proved uncompetitive on superspeedways. After Rahal failed to qualify at Indianapolis, the team switched to a more conventional Lola, while team driver Mike Groff attempted to salvage a season out of the R/H. Eventually the team abandoned the chassis project.
In 1994, Rahal–Hogan introduced the Honda HRX Indy V-8 engine to the IndyCar World Series, but split with the manufacturer after Rahal finished a disappointing tenth place in the standings. At Indianapolis, the engine proved uncompetitive, and Rahal risked missing the race for the second year in a row. He borrowed two Penske-Ilmor machines, and finished third in the race. In 1996, Carl Hogan left the team, and started his own racing operation. As a result, the team changed its name to Team Rahal and Hogan started Hogan Racing.
Over the next few years, the team would employ Bryan Herta, Max Papis, Kenny Bräck, Jimmy Vasser and Michel Jourdain, Jr., getting closest to another title in 2001, when Bräck finished 2nd in points. Rahal himself retired from driving at the end of 1998.
The team changed its name again to Rahal Letterman Racing in May 2004. For the 2005 season, RLR's three drivers were Buddy Rice, who won the 2004 Indianapolis 500 while driving for the team, Vitor Meira, who finished second in the 2005 & 2008 Indianapolis 500s, and Danica Patrick, who finished fourth in the 2005 Indianapolis 500, and had the highest finish of any female driver (3 previous) in the history of the Indianapolis 500. Also in the 2005 Indianapolis 500, former team member Kenny Bräck, who was replaced by Rice when he suffered a serious injury in 2003, replaced Rice when he was injured in pre-race practice. Rice was able to recover in time to race in the next IndyCar race.
The Rahal Letterman team had high hopes for 2006. Meira had left the team after the 2005 season to join Panther Racing. He was replaced by Paul Dana who brought an Ethanol sponsorship. The team placed three cars in the top eight for the Toyota Indy 300 during March 25, 2006, qualifying (Patrick third, Rice sixth, Dana ninth), and expected good things to come the next day for the race at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Unfortunately, tragedy took place during final practice Sunday morning. Vision Racing's Ed Carpenter crashed in turn two and the car slid down the 20-degree banking. Dana, who seemed to not receive the signal from the spotter, ran into the gearbox section of Carpenter's car, sending Dana's car flying on the backstretch. Dana died in the hospital later that afternoon, and the entire team, including Patrick and Rice, withdrew immediately.
Patrick and Rice raced together at St. Petersburg with the third car vacant out of respect, but effective the Bridgestone Indy Japan 300 at Motegi, Japan, Jeff Simmons was added as the team's third driver. In mid-2006 the team switched from Panoz to Dallara chassis. Rice finished 15th in points, Patrick finished 9th, and Simmons finished 16th.
For the 2007 IndyCar Series, RLR fielded two cars, one for Simmons and one for IndyCar veteran Scott Sharp. They were unable to find sponsorship to field a third car for 2004 Indianapolis 500 champion Buddy Rice, who moved to Dreyer & Reinbold Racing. However, after 11 races, released Simmons and picked up former Champ Car driver Ryan Hunter-Reay, who earned a 7th place finish at the Honda 200. Consistent finishes gave Ryan and the team the Rookie of the Year award despite making only six starts.
In the 2008 IndyCar Series season, RLR fielded just one car driven by Ryan Hunter-Reay. The team scored a win at the IndyCar Series event at Watkins Glen International and Hunter-Reay finished 8th in points. However at the end of the season the team's ethanol promotion council sponsorship left and it was unable to find full-time sponsorship for 2009.
RLR did not participate in the 2009 season due to a lack of sponsorship. With the sponsorship of DAFCA they participated in the 2009 Indianapolis 500, where driver Oriol Servià, after starting on the ninth row, advanced to tenth place but completed only 98 laps before being forced to quit due to mechanical problems.
In 2010, the team again failed to secure sponsorship for the full season. At the 2010 Indianapolis 500, the team arranged a one–race sponsorship entry for Graham Rahal. Rahal ran in the top ten until a blocking penalty shuffled him back in the standings, and he finished 12th.
The team signed Jay Howard to drive the #88 car with Service Central sponsorship for the 2011 Indy 500. Bertrand Baguette also joined the team at the 500. Howard finished 30th after losing a wheel following a pit stop on lap 61, while Baguette would lead 11 laps late in the race before needing to pit for fuel with 3 laps to go. He would finish 7th.
The team returned to full-time IndyCar competition for 2012, running a single Dallara-Honda for Takuma Sato. The Japanese driver achieved two podium finishes at São Paulo and Edmonton. Michel Jourdain, Jr. returned to the team in a second car for the Indianapolis 500, where Sato came close to victory, crashing out on the final lap while attempting to pass Dario Franchitti for the lead.
In 2007, Rahal Letterman Racing fielded a Porsche 911 GT3 RSR for nine of the twelve races. The team's best results came as a second place finish at Road America and a third place finish at Petit Le Mans. The team finished 4th in the GT2 team championship with Tommy Milner and Ralf Kelleners 6th in the drivers championship.
The team returned to the series in 2009 with factory support from BMW. The team fielded two E92 M3s, the #90 driven by Joey Hand and Bill Auberlen and the #92 driven by Tommy Milner and Dirk Müller. After a troubled season the #92 car finished second at the 2009 Petit Le Mans. The team finished 3rd in the team championship with Milner and Müller 4th in the drivers championship.
In 2010 the team continued their relationship with BMW and the American Le Mans Series. Despite only winning one race at Road America, Rahal Letterman Racing won the team championship while Bill Auberlen and Tommy Milner 3rd in the drivers championship.
2011 was an even more successful year for the team. After a one-two finish at the 2011 12 Hours of Sebring the RLL Racing team would win two more races. Despite fierce competition from Corvette, Ferrari and Porsche, Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing claimed the GT Teams and Manufacturers championships, While Joey Hand and Dirk Müller won the drivers championship. This was the second team championship for the team with the M3.
In 2012, the team returned to the American Le Mans Series for their 4th year with the BMW M3. After winning their second 12 Hours of Sebring in a row, the team, lacking speed to the brand new Porsches and Corvettes, would win only one more race at Road America. Despite their deficit in pace, the team finished the season 2nd in the championship with driver Dirk Muller finished 4th, the highest of the BMW team drivers.
Continuing their relationship with BMW Motorsport, the Rahal Letterman Lanigan team campaigned two brand new Z4 GTE cars, replacing the BMW M3's. Despite being their first season with the car, the team claimed several GT poles, a 1-2 victory at Long Beach and a win at Lime Rock Park. The team finished the season 2nd in the Teams' and Manufacturers' Championships behind Corvette Racing.
|1993||Bobby Rahal||Mike Groff|
|2002||Jimmy Vasser||Michel Jourdain, Jr.|
|2003||Michel Jourdain, Jr.|
| style="width:50%; text-align:left; vertical-align:top;" |
|Year||Full season driver(s)||Indy 500 driver(s)|
|2004|| Buddy Rice|
|Roger Yasukawa (also Motegi)|
|2005|| Buddy Rice (sat out Indy 500 due to injury)|
|Kenny Bräck (replaced injured Rice)|
|2006|| Buddy Rice|
Paul Dana (died, see below)
|2007|| Scott Sharp|
Jeff Simmons (released July 17)
Ryan Hunter-Reay (signed July 17)
|2008||Ryan Hunter-Reay||Alex Lloyd|
|2011|| Jay Howard|
|2012||Takuma Sato||Michel Jourdain Jr.|
|2013|| Graham Rahal|
|Michel Jourdain Jr. (Failed to qualify)|
|Michel Jourdain, Jr.||19|
|Michel Jourdain, Jr.||DNQ|