July 22, 2014  |   By IMS

RLL Readies For Second Run on IMS Road Course

Indirectly, competing on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course in the inaugural Grand Prix of Indianapolis in May will assist Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing’s BMW Z4 GTE cars this weekend in the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship race.

“You get a good feel for what you need there and that can be transferred to BMWs, but how we get there is different,” said team co-owner Bobby Rahal, comparing the Verizon IndyCar Series program to the two-car sports car team. “The IndyCars perform at a much higher level in terms of speed, but there are correlations. We have simulation programs for gearing the BMWs, and those circuits to compare between the two programs – like Long Beach -- you can extrapolate and say we should be this gear.”

Also potentially aiding the BMWs on the long frontstretch of the famous oval and the Hulman Boulevard backstraight in the 2-hour, 45-minute race July 25 will be the shedding of 33 pounds under an IMSA directive announced last week. The GT LeMans class has been dominated recently by the Chevrolet Corvette C7.R, which under the Adjustment of Performance settings will gain 55 pounds.

“The Corvette has been the dominant car and it will be interesting to see if the performance changes will have an effect,” Rahal said. “You just know looking at the circuit that it’s going to be a low-downforce set-up. The front straightaway is very long and crucial to your performance, which for us is a bit of a negative. We lack straightline speed compared to the Vipers and Corvettes. There are also fast corners where you need a good-handling car, which is one of our strengths.”

In the most recent race at Cana¬dian Tire Motor¬sport Park, in Bowmanville, Ontario, the No. 56 BMW Z4 car co-driven by John Edwards and Dirk Müller finished fourth and the No. 55 car co-driven by Bill Auberlen and Andy Priaulx placed sixth.

“Not one of the drivers (in the GTLM class) has any experience on this Indy course so they’ll all be starting from scratch,” Rahal noted, “though if you’re a good driver you get to know it in six laps or so. Both of our cars compete equally and I expect that they’ll both be right there at the end.”

Rahal praised the efforts over the past year to reconfigure the 2.435-mile infield course, which incorporates sections of the 2.5-mile oval.

“They did such a fine job with the circuit,” the 1986 Indianapolis 500 Mile Race winner said. “Everybody had great comments about the track during the IndyCar weekend and they modified it and made it a great circuit. I’m looking forward to a great race.”