James Jakes Joins Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing for 2013 INDYCAR season
James Jakes at the 2012 Indianapolis 500 (Anne Proffit photo)
Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing (RLL) announced a second full-season entry for this year’s IZOD IndyCar Series campaign that begins the 24th of March on the Streets of St Petersburg, FL. As already announced, Graham Rahal is the lead driver for the team, joining his father’s operation after a couple of years with Chip Ganassi Racing and a prior stay with Newman/Haas Racing, where he earned his first victory in an Indy car on the same streets of St Petersburg – in his first career INDYCAR start.
Earlier RLL announced a one-off drive for 2011 Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach winner Mike Conway at the Long Beach event that takes place the middle of April, its traditional date. Conway drove for AJ Foyt Racing last year but gave up his seat in the Auto Club Speedway 2-mile oval season finale when he realized racing on his ovals was not, shall we say, that Briton’s cup of tea?
Now the team has confirmed James Jakes and his Acorn Stairlifts sponsor are joining the Honda-powered team for the full spate of races, beginning at St Pete. Jakes has been with Dale Coyne Racing the past couple of years and progressed nicely in his learning curve after running Formula 3, GP2 Asia and GP3 before arriving in the US in 2011.
“I wanted to put myself in a position where I could get results that I believe I am capable of,” said Jakes, 25, “and Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing is a good fit for me. I had negotiated with Bobby [Rahal] when I first came to the series but we weren’t able to put a program together until now. It will be great for the team to have two full-season cars to move ourselves forward and push to to where Bobby and the team want us to be – at the top of the grid.”
If you’re thinking the Long Beach race in April will be a challenging one for RLL on the INDYCAR front, you might be right… they’ll have three cars competing in the seminal contest abutting the Pacific Ocean. But it’s easy to forget that RLL has run three Indy cars before now – in 2006 it had Danica Patrick, Buddy Rice and Jeff Simmons handling the driving chores. And before that, Rice and Patrick teamed with Vitor Meira, so it’s really not much of a stretch for RLL.
And there will actually be five RLL-based cars in Long Beach as the American Le Mans Series once again joins the Indy cars for their Saturday final race – ALMS joins with Grand-Am at the close of both seasons for a unified front in 2014. Team RLL runs the BMW Z4 this year in ALMS competition and will have two cars in the Long Beach race.
This new ride for Jakes is good news for the IZOD IndyCar Series and the fact that there’s going to be at least one more car running at Long Beach – which can easily accommodate as many Indy cars as show up – is grand news for fans of that particular street race.
By Anne Proffit