One of North America’s most successful motorsports operations could have an increased presence in the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship next year, while also making a debut appearance in the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
Sportscar365 has learned that Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing (Team RLL) is evaluating an expansion into the Prototype class that would see the Ohio-based sports car squad field a P2-based prototype alongside its current GT Le Mans class factory BMW effort.
“We’re in the process of looking into entering the Prototype class in addition to GTLM,” team co-owner Bobby Rahal told Sportscar365 in an exclusive interview. “We’d like to win events like Daytona and Sebring on an overall basis.”
Rahal, who made two starts at Le Mans in the 1980s, is also hoping to take his team to the French endurance classic in the not-to-distant future.
The former sports car and open-wheel driver said Team RLL’s current BMW Z4 GTE, while eligible for the GTE-Pro class, would be uncompetitive on the high-speed circuit, therefore putting the focus towards the proposed LMP2 program instead.
“For me, that’s an unrealized goal, to go to Le Mans as an entrant,” Rahal said. “There’s potentially some opportunities, but all of the pieces have to be in place. We’re not there yet but it’s something we’re certainly looking into.
“I’d like to see Graham [Rahal] do more sports car racing and do more of the big events. He loves endurance racing. He’s won Daytona overall and he’d love to win Sebring and I’d love to see him at Le Mans one of these days as well.”
Rahal said he’s currently working on raising the necessary budget for the single-car program, with a deadline of October to finalize a deal for 2015. No decision has been made on a chassis or engine choice.
A partial-season program around the Tequila Patron North American Endurance Cup, and/or running the car in association with an existing prototype team, are also considerations, according to Rahal.
“We want to make sure if we’re going to do it, we’re going to do it the right way,” he said. “That means finding the money to have the best drivers out there.
“Sponsorship anywhere is tough to sell. It’s tough to find the money it really takes. Prototype, or any of those categories… they aren’t cheap. The budgets are a pretty good size, so finding the right level of money is crucial.”
While into the sixth year of its factory program with BMW, Rahal doesn’t see anything changing in the short-term with the works GTLM operation.
“We’re pretty happy with that relationship,” he said. “We’d like to continue with them for many years down the line. But who knows where they end up a couple of years from now.
“All it takes is a different direction from somebody at [BMW] Motorsport, down the line… you never know.”
Coincidently, BMW was known to have been developing a diesel-powered LMP2 engine prior to the ACO’s rules reversal to ban diesel powerplants in the cost-capped class.