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INDIANAPOLIS (May 16, 2011) – The month of May at Indianapolis can throw a number of scenarios at a race team, so it pays dividends for a team to be prepared for every eventuality.
After a weekend of 80-degree temperatures, the Rahal Letterman Lanigan team was greeted Monday by windy and cool conditions at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, forcing the team to alter their practice plans a bit for drivers Bertrand Baguette (#30 RACB/Aspria Dallara/Honda/Firestone) and Jay Howard (#88 Service Central Dallara/Honda/Firestone). The Sam Schmidt/RLL team, choosing to ensure that its tire allotment would be there when it counted, chose to keep the #88 car in the garage Monday while the #30 machine went out on a fact-finding mission in the breezy conditions.
Baguette’s outing yielded a treasure trove of good information about the 2.5-mile IMS oval as he logged a best time of 223.429 mph (40.2813 seconds) in just his second day of practice. The time was fourth-best on the charts at the moment he hung it on the board, and it ended up being 17th fastest of the 39 cars that turned laps.
“We could have weather like this in qualifying or on race day, so you have to be able to run in it,” said Baguette. “The car was moving around out there with the wind but it wasn’t that tough. I like what we are doing with the car and with our plan, and I think we are getting there.”
Baguette made 21 trips around the IMS oval today, and posted his fastest time on his 21st and final lap.
“It was a good day for us, we made a good bit of progress on one car, while making sure that we aren’t wasting our tire allotment, so we will have them when we need them,” said 1986 Indy 500 champion Bobby Rahal. “Bertrand got another day in the car and another day to work with the engineers, and that is important. So far, it has been a good start to the week.”
Baguette, who is looking to make his second Indianapolis 500 start after making his maiden appearance last year with Conquest Racing, was encouraged by the day’s performance as well.
“I think it was another good day for us,” Baguette reported. “We keep improving the car with every change, so we are headed the right way.”
The Rahal Letterman Lanigan cars now have five days of practice available leading into Saturday’s first qualifying day. The field will be finalized on Bump Day, May 22nd, with the race taking place May 29.
Today’s 100th anniversary Indy 500 fun fact
In 1957, race winner Sam Hanks rolled into Victory Lane and promptly retired from racing. Hanks never ran another Indy Car race, although he did making a qualifying attempt at Indy in 1957. Hanks is the last driver to win Indy in the final race of his career.