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My Favorite Car: Bobby Rahal

Note: This continues a series of interviews with Indianapolis 500 legends about the favorite car they drove in “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing” and why, in their words. “My Favorite Car” interviews will appear at IMS.com on Mondays through the spring. Read other installments of "My Favorite Car" here.

Q: What was your favorite car you drove in the Indianapolis 500?

Bobby Rahal: My ’85 car I liked a lot. That was a good car. We led the race. A hole in the radiator kept us perhaps from winning the race. But I think I’d have to say the ’86 car was the one. We won in it. That gives you good cause to pick it. That car, we were able to adjust it throughout the course of the race. It was responsive. And it was fast. When it needed to be, it was extremely fast. For me, the ’86 car was my favorite car.

Q: Did the 1986 car roll right off the truck strong in the Month of May?

BR: I think we started off pretty fast. We qualified well. We qualified fourth. We were pretty happy with it right from the start. I just kept doing a lot of running. The car was very responsive in the race to changes. It just seemed pretty good right from the start.

Q: Was the car’s strength outright speed or handling in traffic?

BR: It was interesting. I think, on average, it had the best speed in the field. When I say that, when we first would make a pit stop and added full fuel, it understeered a bit. We weren’t as quick as Rick (Mears) in the beginning. But as the fuel load burned off, it got plenty quick. We were able to catch Rick as the fuel decreased – when the weight of the car decreased, it got better and better. In the beginning, Rick was able to get through traffic in each run a little better than me, and then I was able to get through traffic perhaps a little better than him toward the middle of the run and the end. It was fast when it needed to be fast. That was really shown at the end of the race when we did the fastest lap of the race on the last lap. It was quick all throughout the whole race. We led 60 laps, or something like that. It was just a good responsive car the whole day. It handled very well, as we saw on the (final) restart. Just a nicely balanced car. It never did anything bad.

Q: You said you liked the ’85 car, too. Was there that much of a change in the chassis from ’85 to ’86?

BR: It was quite a different car, ’86 to ’85. The ’86 car was (designer) Adrian Newey’s best car for March. After ’86, he went into more of a track engineering role and then he left to go to Newman-Haas in ’87. So, it was a really good car right from the get-go. Typical Adrian – a stickler for weight and every little detail. That probably accounted for it. Other people had the same car. It’s not like I was the only guy with it. But we just had a good feel for it. We were able to develop the car. That year, our first couple of races were problematic. We didn’t really shine. We had a tough day at Long Beach. Phoenix, we were nothing special. But I think when we got to Indy, we really kind of figured it out. That’s why we had such a good Month of May.

Q: There’s something about those mid-80s Adrian Newey cars. Your favorite was a Newey in 1986; Mario Andretti’s was a Newey in 1987.

BR: That’s right. Exactly. I had a lot of good cars. The ’87 car, I qualified in the middle of the front row. But the car got imbalanced in the race, and then we had a mechanical issue, so that was kind of the end of that. Looking back, it (1986 car) was just a good car.

Facts about Bobby Rahal’s 1986 Indianapolis 500 car:
Car name: Budweiser March/Cosworth
Car number: 3
Team: Truesports
Started: Fourth
Finished: First
Laps Completed: 200
Laps Led: 58
Status: Running
Bobby Rahal career ‘500” starts: 13 (1982-92, 1994-95)

Visit IMS.com for tickets to the 104th Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge, GMR Grand Prix and all other Month of May activities at IMS

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