IndyCar star Graham Rahal is poised to race in this year’s Rolex 24 at Daytona with BMW Team RLL, having been brought on board to test with the factory Z4 GTE squad this weekend at Daytona International Speedway.
The second-generation driver, who won the 24-hour classic in 2011 in a Chip Ganassi Racing Riley-BMW, turned his first laps in the ACO GTE-spec contender Friday, sharing the No. 56 entry with Dirk Mueller, John Edwards and Dirk Werner.
“It’s cool for me to obviously to be here and get this opportunity,” Rahal told Sportscar365. “I was a [BMW] junior driver in ’04 so I’ve certainly had a lot of connections with BMW over the years.
“We’ve been trying to do this for a long time. We were trying to put a deal together to drive the M3 for years and it never kind of worked out. To get this opportunity is fun for me. It’s a cool, little car.”
While driving for his father Bobby’s IndyCar team, which also fields the factory BMWs, a ride in the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship season-opener may have seemed like a logical choice.
However, the 25-year-old said he had to work for this opportunity.
“In this case, it’s a little bit different than the IndyCar deal where I think all of the decisions were made in Germany,” Rahal said. “For me to get in this car, I had to work really hard with Gordon [McDonnell, BMW NA Motorsport Manager] and the guys at BMW to make it happen. My dad wasn’t even involved, frankly.”
The German manufacturer has yet to confirm its lineup for the race, although it’s believed that all eight drivers on hand this weekend will be part of the mix.
While a newcomer to the Z4 GTE, Rahal is no complete stranger to GT racing, having made two starts in RLL’s Porsche 911 GT3 RSR in 2007 and also testing a factory Corvette C6.R in 2010.
“I hope we can do a good job,” he said. “I think my pace yesterday was really good. We were struggling for a lot of top speed. I think we’re really losing some time there. Coming from what I come from, it’s so different and takes quite a bit to get used to. But it’s cool.”