Rahal still keen on IndyCar return
|By Mark Glendenning||Thursday, July 30th 2009, 10:48 GMT|
Bobby Rahal has reiterated his desire to return to the IndyCar Series as a team owner if sufficient backing can be found.
Lack of sponsorship forced Rahal Letterman Racing to abandon the one-car programme that it had been running for Ryan Hunter-Reay at the end of 2008, and since then its IndyCar activities have been limited to a one-off entry in this year's Indianapolis 500 with Oriol Servia.
Rahal told AUTOSPORT that motorsport in the United States had been hit particularly hard by the economic downturn, and that the future participation of his team depending on finding enough money to put together a competitive package.
"We've been trying to find the sponsorship that is necessary to run the series, and with the economy - especially as it is over here – motorsports are about the last thing that companies are interested in getting involved in," Rahal said.
"When a series like NASCAR has problems... when they cough, everybody else has pneumonia. So it's been tough, and unfortunately without the sponsorship we just haven't been in a position to do it. And there's no point doing it in a half-way manner. Either do it right, or don't do it at all. We're working towards next year, but there's nothing yet."
Despite his own battle to return to the grid, Rahal believes that the IndyCar Series is in good shape.
"I think it's not so bad," he said. "There's relatively good fields – it's not like last year in terms of numbers, but there are still 20, 22 cars. Certainly all the teams are facing the same issues as we are in regards to sponsorship and what have you.
"But I'd like to see the series take on more road courses. It's really not too dissimilar to what CART was with ovals and road courses, so they've kind of gone full-circle. But it seems to be progressing now. We'll see if they will be able to make any sponsorship announcements and what the new schedule will look like for 2010 before you can make too much comment, but so far it seems that it's progressing fairly well."
However, Rahal also pointed to the need for strong leadership in the series following the recent departure of founder Tony George, whose forced resignation as CEO of the IRL has raised questions over whether the George family will attempt to sell IndyCar off and concentrate on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
"I have no doubt that the family is extremely committed to the Speedway, for sure, but are they going to be committed towards the League, or are they going to look at selling the League off?" Rahal said.
"But certainly it needs very public leadership – just as Brian France is to NASCAR and Bernie Ecclestone is to Formula 1, you need to have a real cheerleader; somebody that's out there making things happen.
"I don't see that happening yet, but it will be interesting to see who they pick, if anybody, to take that role. Those people, they're making things happen and they're out front leading the charge. And the IRL certainly needs that."