Bobby Rahal

Full Name:
Robert Woodward Rahal
Born:
10th January 1953 (Age 65)
Medina, Ohio
Nationality:
American
Most recent race (in database):
Biography

Looking more like an accountant than racing driver, Bobby Rahal enjoyed almost two decades as a championship-winning driver before continuing that success as a car owner. He flourished in Champ Cars during the late-20th century and was renowned as a calm and analytical racing driver.

Education and early racing career

Rahal first racing experiences were with his father’s Lotus Seven and Porsche 906 – racing in SCCA events from 1973. He graduated from Denison University with a degree in history and gave up racing for six months to work in a Chicago advertising agency. However, the lure of the sport proved irresistible and Rahal raced in Formula Atlantic from 1975 to 1978 – finishing as 1977 runner-up behind rising star Gilles Villeneuve.

F1 and a year in Formula 2

He drove a Wolf-Dallara WD1-Toyota in the 1978 European Formula 3 Championship and impressed by finishing third on his first visit to the Nürburgring. Walter Wolf’s patronage also led to two late-season Grand Prix appearances that year – starting the United States and Canadian GPs with a second Wolf-Ford.

A points scorer in Formula 2 during 1979 with a works Chevron B48-Hart, Rahal’s Prophet-Chevrolet also finished fifth in the Can-Am Challenge that year and the next. The early 1980s were spent racing a Porsche 935 sports car – winning the 1981 Daytona 24 Hours as he finished fourth in IMSA GT and sixth in the inaugural Drivers’ World Championship that year.

Double champion in Champ Cars

He would continue to race successfully in IMSA for the rest of the decade but it was in Champ Cars that Rahal found national fame. Backed by sometime IMSA driver Jim Trueman, Rahal entered the series in 1982 with a TrueSports March 82C-Cosworth and it was an impressive debut. He won his fourth race in the category and finished as championship runner-up while easily winning the Rookie of the Year title. Top-five in the championship and a race winner for the next three seasons, Rahal’s career went onto another level in 1986.

It was an emotional campaign for Trueman died of cancer in June but only after Rahal had won the Indianapolis 500 at a then record average speed of 170.722mph. Another five victories (including three in a row) helped Rahal clinch the 1986 Champ Car title at the final round. He repeated that championship success in 1987 by defeating Michael Andretti for a second successive season. That included victory at Laguna Seca for a fourth year in a row.

Third in the 1988 championship, Rahal switched from TrueSports to Kraco Racing but his Lola T89/00-Cosworth was no match for more powerful Chevrolet-powered rivals. Kraco merged with Galles Racing at the end of the season and Rahal spent the next two campaigns as Al Unser Jr’s team-mate. He failed to win a race for the first time in his Champ Car career in 1990 when seven podium finishes included second in the Indianapolis 500. He was runner-up behind Michael Andretti in 1991 after ending a 31-race winless streak with victory at the Meadowlands.

New team owner wins the title again

There was a change of direction in 1992 when he joined former Can-Am car owner Carl Hogan to create Rahal-Hogan Racing. It was a remarkable debut as an owner/driver. His Miller Genuine Draft Lola T92/00-Chevrolet won four times and Rahal beat Unser and Andretti in a three-way title showdown.

However, that was the three-time national champion’s last winning season as a driver. 1993 was blighted as he tried to sort the Rahal-Hogan RH001 (née TrueSports 92C) chassis and he failed to qualify at Indy. He only made the field for the 1994 Indy 500 after a late run in a borrowed Penske PC22-Ilmor although he showed his class by finishing third on raceday.

He repeated that result in 1995 with a Lola T95/00-Mercedes-Benz as he secured third in the points once more. Hogan left the team at the end of the year and the renamed Team Rahal entered its owner with Bryan Herta as his team-mate for another three seasons.

Career in team management

Rahal retired as a driver at the end of 1998 just as his team returned to winning ways with Herta scoring the first of back-to-back wins at Laguna Seca. Max Papis, Kenny Bräck, Jimmy Vasser, Michel Jourdain Jr, Buddy Rice and Ryan Hunter-Reay and his son Graham have all since won Champ Car or Indycar events for Rahal. Rice’s victories include the 2004 Indianapolis 500 with chat-show host David Letterman now a minority shareholder in the operation.

In addition to that venture, Rahal was briefly Team Principal of Jaguar’s F1 team in 2001 and he now runs a network of Honda dealerships on the American Eastern Seaboard.

Championship seasons

Season Name Starts Poles Podiums Wins Position Points
1998 FedEx Championship Series
Team Rahal
19 0 1 0
0% win rate
10th 82
1997 PPG CART World Series
Team Rahal
17 0 1 0
0% win rate
12th 70
1996 PPG Indycar World Series
Team Rahal
16 0 3 0
0% win rate
7th 102
1995 PPG Indycar World Series
Rahal-Hogan Racing
17 0 5 0
0% win rate
3rd 128
1994 PPG Indycar World Series
Rahal-Hogan Racing
16 0 2 0
0% win rate
10th 59
1993 PPG Indycar World Series
Rahal-Hogan Racing
15 (1) 0 3 0
0% win rate
4th 133
1992 PPG Indycar World Series
Rahal-Hogan Racing
16 3 10 4
25% win rate
1st 196
1991 CART/PPG Indycar World Series
Galles-Kraco Racing
17 1 11 1
6% win rate
2nd 200
1990 CART/PPG Indycar World Series
Galles-Kraco Racing
16 1 7 0
0% win rate
4th 153
1989 CART/PPG Indycar World Series
Kraco Racing
15 0 3 1
7% win rate
9th 88
1988 CART/PPG Indycar World Series
Truesports
15 0 5 1
7% win rate
3rd 136
1987 IMSA Camel GT Championship
Bayside Motorsports
3 0 3 3 0
1987 CART/PPG Indycar World Series
Truesports
15 1 10 3
20% win rate
1st 188
1986 CART/PPG Indycar World Series
Truesports
17 2 8 6
36% win rate
1st 179
1985 IMSA Camel GT Championship
Dyson Racing
1 0 1 1 0
1985 CART/PPG Indycar World Series
Truesports
15 6 4 3
20% win rate
3rd 133
1984 Winston Cup Grand National 108th 43
1984 CART/PPG Indycar World Series
Truesports
16 1 6 2
13% win rate
3rd 137
1983 IMSA Camel GT Championship
Holbert Racing
1 1 1 1 0
1983 CART/PPG Indycar World Series
Truesports
12 2 3 1
9% win rate
5th 94
1982 CART/PPG Indycar World Series
Truesports
10 0 6 2
20% win rate
2nd 242
1982 World Endurance Championship
Garretson Enterprises
1 0 0 0 0
1981 IMSA Camel GT Championship
Garretson Enterprises
1 0 1 1 0
1981 World Endurance Championship
Garretson Enterprises
Gianpiero Moretti
Cooke-Woods Racing
Bob Akin
10 (1) 0 3 1 3rd 109
1980 World Championship of Makes
Dick Barbour Racing
4 1 0 0 0
1979 SCCA Citicorp Can-Am Challenge
US Racing
1 0 1 1 0
1979 European F2 Championship
Chevron Racing Team
11 0 0 0
0% win rate
11th 10
1978 European F3 Championship
Walter Wolf Racing
4 (1) 0 1 0
0% win rate
15th 5
1978 F1 World Championship
Walter Wolf Racing
2 0 0 0
0% win rate
0