Bobby Rahal is one of racing’s most accomplished men – Indy 500 winner, three-time CART champion, successful Indycar team owner, ALMS BMW team owner, car salesman with dealerships across central Pennsylvania, president of the USA’s Road Racing Drivers Club – and father of Graham, 20, who’s making his mark in Indycars with Newman/Haas Racing. But the thing that gets Rahal’s blood flowing these days is his vintage racing exploits in Europe.
Rahal has driven in and won historic races in Europe this year in a variety of cars, including the Lola T290 2-litre sports/racer he drove in 1973 and ’74, and the lightweight Jaguar E-type in which he and old friend Adrian Newey won the RAC Tourist Trophy Celebration race at Goodwood in September. Bobby also has a Chevron B16 in which he won his category at Silverstone in July.
“I just won my class in Portugal in the Lola,” he enthuses. “So I’ve had a pretty successful summer and it’s just a thrill for me. I always enjoy it, especially the cars I’ve been driving.
“I’ve been to Europe a couple of times to race this year and it’s always a pleasure, because the circuits you race on over there are fabulous and the competition is tough. There are a lot of people I know from when I raced over there and from the year and a half when I was with Jaguar in Formula 1. It’s not quite like going home, but there’s a lot of familiarity.
“But in the end, it’s the circuits you get to race on that make it so special. Silverstone and Goodwood and places like that are fabulous. I really enjoy it and want to continue doing it. As I say, it’s tough over there. Those guys are serious. It really is fabulous racing.”
He couldn’t have been more delighted to win at the Goodwood Revival meeting with Newey. Rahal gave the lead to Newey and the Red Bull designer did a fine job bringing the Jaguar home to the chequered flag. “That’s a tough and dangerous circuit,” says Rahal. “When you race there you try to remember that. But of course, when you put the helmet on you tend to forget. You just want to go out and win.
“It was great for us and Adrian was thrilled. He did a very good job. Most importantly, he kept it on the island and he did some pretty quick lap times. He definitely contributed. It would have been interesting to see what would’ve happened had the other Ferrari stayed in the race. When it dropped out it made things a little easier for us. But I think Adrian would have been as fast, or faster, than the guy who would’ve taken over the Ferrari.”
Once a racer always a racer – and also a long-time Motor Sport reader. “I’ve always read Motor Sport, since I was a kid,” Bobby says. “I love it and over the past two years under Nigel and Damien’s leadership it’s definitely become the world’s best racing magazine.”
A lifelong racing man who knows, dare I say, what he’s talking about.