DRIVERS: BOBBY RAHAL
Name: Bobby Rahal
Nationality: United States of America
Date of birth: January 10, 1953 - Medina, Ohio
The son of a club racer Michael Rahal, Rahal was born in the suburbs of Cleveland, Ohio, but grew up in Chicago. He spent his youth following his father around the race tracks of the Mid West and began racing himself in SCCA sportscar events in the early 1970s, driving his father's Lotus. While racing he also took the time to get a degree in history from Denison University in Ohio. He remained a successful amateur driver until 1976 when he ran out of money and spent six months working for an advertising agency in Chicago before deciding to go professional and entered Formula Atlantic. The following year he was the only opposition to Gilles Villeneuve, finishing second in the series to the great Canadian racer. This led to the decision to go to Europe to race in Formula 3 in Europe, driving a Dallara-built Wolf chassis, funded by Canadian oil millionaire Walter Wolf. It was this connection which led to him making his Formula 1 debut with the Wolf team in the final two races of the 1978 season in Canada and in the United States.
He tried to make it in European Formula 2 in 1978 with Chevron but eventually decided to return to the United States fulltime after enjoying some success in CanAm. For the 1980 and 1981 seasons he concentrated on sportscars, winning the Daytona 24 Hours in the second season. In 1982, thanks to the patronage of Jim Trueman of the Red Roof Inns company, Rahal was able to move into Indycar racing with Trueman's Truesports team. He won his first race for the team that year in Cleveland and finished runner-up in the CART series and was Rookie of the Year. It was enough to establish him as a topline CART driver although he continued to compete in sportscar racing and in 1984 even drove a NASCAR in the Riverside event. That year he was third in the CART series and he repeated the performance the following year.
The 1986 season was to be a bitter-sweet year. He won the Indianapolis 500 just a few weeks before Trueman died of cancer and Bobby then went on to win the CART title. He repeated the success the following year while also adding the Sebring 12 Hours to his list of victories.
After a disappointing time in 1988 he took the decision to move to Kraco after seven seasons with TrueSports and there then followed a couple of tough years without any victories and in 1991 he took the battle for the title down to the wire with Michael Andretti at Laguna Seca.
In 1992 he went into partnership with Carl Hogan to buy Patrick Racing and landed a Chevrolet engine deal and backing from Miller Beer and won the CART title for a third time. That winter he took over the Truesports team and there followed an abortive attempt to build his own cars in 1993 before the team went back to being a Lola customer and quickly made up for lost ground and finished fourth in the CART series that year. Rahal then embarked on the development of the Honda Indycar engine programme which was not a success and at the end of 1996 Hogan decided to end the partnership and Rahal went into league with talk show host David Letterman to establish Team Rahal. Bobby continued to race until the end of 1998 when he retired to concentrate on running his team and developing a string of car dealerships in Pennsylvania and Ohio.
In the middle of 2000 he was named interim chief executive of the CART organisation and was then whisked away to Europe by the Ford Motor Company to be chief executive of Jaguar Racing, a role he took over in 2001. In the mid-season however he was ousted by the new management of Jaguar Cars and replaced by Niki Lauda. Rahal went back to the United States were he continues to run a variety of racing teams and car dealerships while taking part in historic races when he gets the chance.