Rahal hires Jourdain to race in Indy 500
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing will field a car for Michel Jourdain Jr. in the Indianapolis 500.
Jourdain will drive the No. 30 Dallara for RLL in the May 27 race as a teammate to Takuma Sato, who drives full-time for Rahal in the IndyCar Series.
Although Rahal returned to the IndyCar Series this season for the first time since 2008, he and Jourdain have been victorious together before. Jourdain won with Rahal in the Champ Car Series at Montreal and Milwaukee in 2003.
"I am extremely happy about this new opportunity," said the 35-year-old Mexican driver. "My best years professionally came with Bobby Rahal. I have been working out harder than ever to make sure I am as fit as possible. I know it is a huge challenge, to drive at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway after so long and with this type of car, but I hope that I will feel at home in a few days."
RLL had announced in March that Italian driver Luca Filippi would join the team at the Indianapolis 500 and complete the season. Rahal has always had two Honda engine leases, but when he didn't have a second program completed in time for the start of the season, he allowed Sarah Fisher's race team to take over one of the leases for rookie Josef Newgarden.
Honda has more engines now, and Rahal hopes to move forward with a second full-time team. But he said Tuesday a deal to put Filippi in the car in time for Indy has not happened yet.
"We're continuing to work toward Luca being part of the team," he said. "Whether it's in time for Indy, I can't tell you at this stage."
Rahal said the organization has the "capacity" to field three teams at Indy, but it's more realistic that Filippi join the series after the 500.
"With each passing day (Indianapolis) becomes more difficult," Rahal said. "Time is not our friend in this case."
It opened the door, though, for Jourdain, who returns to open-wheel competition for the first time since 2004. He was the youngest driver to start a Champ Car race when he competed at Long Beach at 19 years old, and went on to make 152 starts in CART and Champ Car from 1996 through 2004.
He ran the 1996 Indy 500, qualifying eighth and finishing 13th.
Jourdain also competed sporadically in NASCAR's second-tier Nationwide Series from 2005 through 2008.