Sean Rayhall Visits The Cusp Of Rahal Racing History At Mid-Ohio.
While not directly related to the Bobby and Graham wing of this racing racing family, Sean Rayhall shares the Lebanese DNA, speed, and racing passion the more familiar Rahal family share in automobile motorsport.
This weekend, Rayhall will be racing in the 2013 Cooper Tires Prototype Lites Powered by Mazda series at Mid-Ohio … a venue that has a long and storied history with the Ohio-based Rahal family that started out over 50 years ago when Bobby attended his first race as a kid with his father.
Bobby grew up and with the early support of Jim Truman, the one-time owner of the track at Mid-Ohio, won several times with a pair of wins in IMSA GT, IROC and of course CART. The Ohioan won the Indy 500 as driver in 1986 for TrueSports, a team sponsored and built through the efforts of Jim Truman, on the way to capturing three CART championships to his Rahal name.
Graham Rahal, Bobby’s son, has always considered the Lexington, Ohio-based track a home track due to his father’s history running there but Graham is frank about being stumped at doing well at Mid Ohio. Last year, he shared before a Mid-Ohio IndyCar test teleconference, “I’ve never really had a great result there. We’ve always been fast there. We’ve had some really strong runs, but we always have contact, I made a mistake in 2009, 2010. We were kind of charging through the field, made contact with Danica. Things have not been quite what we want.
Sean Rayhall currently leads the points championship, in a very tight grouping, as the Cooper Tires Prototype Lites Powered by Mazda series heads into Mid-Ohio for two races – Rounds 5 and 6 of a 14 Round series season. Sean has 58 points followed closely by four drivers that are all within 13 points of each other (Mikhail Goikhberg – 57, Ryan Booth – 56, Daniel Goldburg – 52, and Scott Tucker – 45).
If Sean is able to have the same success as he did at the last two race venue of Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca (where he captured the pole starting position and won the 2 races), he would be able to take command of the championship and make the kind of statement few drivers are able to make at near mid season.
With the pressure on, and starting out the year in the first race at Sebring not scoring any points at all, Sean Rayhall answered a few questions going into the weekend at this famed road race course … not looking at the Rahal family history, but to set a tone at making his own Rayhall history for his first time run at Mid-Ohio.
No points were scored in Round #1 … did you race, and if so, what were the circumstances that led to not scoring a single point?
The circumstances were a failure with the shift mechanism in the car.
Have you ever driven Mid-Ohio in a race car, a track car, … or even walked the course – how familiar are you to Mid-Ohio (general reflections)?
We tested at Mid-Ohio a few weeks ago. I have a lot of confidence in the car and the team after how the test went.
With two races, again, over the next couple of days, what do you see are the critical sections of the track and what do you intend to be on the look-out for?
Every corner at this place is critical, because most of them lead into another. So, consistently having a smooth flow is key from a driving standpoint.
Pre-Race – What are the team’s thoughts on the upcoming weekend’s races (Rounds #5 & #6)?
Teams thoughts are always to win, but we are really focused on making our car even more consistent for the race. Yes, we hope for the pole, but a long race on this course with an ill handling car can lose races.
Additional thoughts on the season so far – racing in Prototype Lites from previous experiences – and what you are looking forward to after this weekend in the heartland of “Rahal” country?
The prototype Lites championship is going extremely well, I am fortunate to be a part of it and wear Robert Talbott’s name in every event! I am looking for a smooth weekend in Ohio behind the wheel of this Robert Talbott Mazda, and looking forward to making Racing Radios, Race Lite Protection, Comprent Motorsports and Jerry Peters proud as well!
The Cooper Tires Prototype Lites Powered by Mazda title chase resumes this weekend (June 15-16) with a doubleheader at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.
The teams and drivers first roll on-course at Mid-Ohio today, Thursday (June 13), taking part in three track test sessions. The Cooper Tires Prototype Lites Powered by Mazda doubleheader officially commences Friday (June 14) with a morning practice session, followed by the lone qualifying run after the lunch break. Round Five is scheduled to take place on Saturday (June 15) at 9:10 am local time, while Round Six is slated for Sunday (June 16) at 12:55 pm local time. Live timing and scoring will be available at http://prototypelites.com/timing/html
Sean Rayhall busted the 1:19.00 timing barrier by nearly a half a second – 1:18.543 – in this morning’s Practice 2. The next closest car (#18) came in at 1:19.030.
Qualifications for the 2013 Diamond Cellar Classic – Cooper Tires Prototype Lites Powered by Mazda (IMSA Lites) will be held Saturday June 15, from 8:35 AM to 9:05 AM ET. Round 5 is expected to start 1:45 PM ET and run for 30 minutes.
Sunday June 16, Round 6 is scheduled to run for 45 minutes starting at 12:40 PM ET.
Again, the series championship points chase is as follows: #14 Sean Rayhall – 58, #10 Mikhail Goikhberg – 57, #18 Ryan Booth – 56, #6 Daniel Goldburg – 52, and #5 Scott Tucker – 45.
Qualifications for the Cooper Tires Prototype Lites Powered by Mazda ,at the Diamond Cellar Classic June 14-16, 2013, was interrupted by two RED Flags but through it all Sean Rayhall was able to prevail over his next closest competitor, Ryan Booth by a margin of 0.086 seconds on the 2.258 mile, 13 turn road course.
Booth, in car #18, was able to post a fastest lap on LAP 6 of 1:18.530 only to have it eclipsed by Sean on the very next lap at 1:18.444 on LAP 7 of the qualification session. The other competitors in the field were in the 1:20.000’s or beyond.
Rayhall, for his part, after the first RED Flag stoppage posted a lap of 1:18.474 on LAP 13, just before the second RED Flag stoppage just to make sure that his car would beat the best qualifying time laid down by the #18 car of Booth’s.
The Diamond Cellar Classic In Round 5 Rough For Rayhall … After leading for 14 of the eventual 18 laps (timed 30 minute race session), posting the fastest lap time of the race – 1:19.326 (as opposed to the next fastest – 1:19.780), and creating as much as a 4 second lead gap before the first of two YELLOW Flags that led to thirteen minutes of the timed 30 minute race to be run under caution. Sean Rayhall finishes Round 5 in P2 to end up being tied in the points championship at 76 points with #18 Ryan Booth.
In an exclusive post race interview, Sean Rayhall shared what happened on the second restart that led to being passed by car #18 – “Left rear (brake) caliper ceased up. It was completely locked when I stopped in the pit (at race’s end), went down off the back-straightway into the braking zone and the car just turned sideways before the corner, saved it from an off, got passed, and wasn’t able to achieve over 500 lbs. of brake load without the car coming out from under me. Definitely not the result we were hoping but I salvaged what I could.”
So five races into a 14 race season have the points race tied largely due to two race-time equipment failures on the #14 Comprent Motorsports Elan DP02. The first race of the season netted zero points out of a possible total of 20 for the young Rayhall due to a transmission failure.
Round 6 to be held today – June 16, 2013 at 12:40 to 1:25 (45 minutes). May the equipment hold up AND the fastest driver win!
… notes from The EDJE