<
>

Graham Rahal eyes second straight Atlantic win

6/16/2006

PORTLAND, Ore. -- Rookie Graham Rahal doesn't have much
experience driving on a wet track, but the way he figures it, rain
this weekend at Portland International Raceway might not be a bad
thing.

While rain isn't in the forecast for the Champ Car Atlantic
Series Saturday and Sunday, with the Portland race you have to
assume you'll see some. It was on everyone's mind after the
downpour during provisional qualifying.

"I've always loved the rain," said the 17-year-old son of
racing star Bobby Rahal.

"I'm a smooth driver and that's not always rewarded, but in the
rain it is."

Rahal became the youngest winner in history of the Atlantic
series last time out by taking the race in Monterrey, Mexico.

He led all 32 laps of that race, just his third in the series,
and established a course record in qualifying while grabbing the
pole.

Rahal doesn't see himself as a favorite in the race, instead
fingering provisional polesitter Simon Pagenaud. The rain in
qualifying Friday wasn't helpful to Rahal, who has had difficulties
with his car.

"We're getting there, but we are still struggling with it," he
said. "Not having much time today (before the rain came) was
difficult."

Rahal isn't a stranger to Portland. He won his first
professional race here last year in the Star Mazda series. His
father won the Grand Prix of Portland in 1987, the year he won his
second straight Champ Car series championship.

A New Albany, Ohio, native who drives for Mi-Jack Conquest,
Rahal grew up around race tracks and began driving when he was 11.
But he doesn't remember his father's win in Portland.

"I wasn't quite born yet. I guess I was about minus-2 years
old," he said.

Bobby Rahal, now the co-owner of Hilliard, Ohio-based Rahal
Letterman Racing in the Indy Racing League, is in Portland to watch
his son.

What better a Father's Day present than to win the race?

"Everyone's been saying that," Graham Rahal said. "I'm sure
he'd like that a lot."

No worries
Champ Car driver Oriol Servia escaped injury and
went on to finish ninth in qualifying with his backup car after
flipping his No. 6 Ford-Cosgrove/Lola in practice Friday morning.

The veteran racer from Catalonia, Spain, experienced a
mechanical failure in a chicane before Turn 11 that launched him into
the protective tire barrier, flipping the No. 6 Ford-Cosworth/Lola
upside down.

Servia said something in the steering failed in one of the
fastest parts of the course. He turned left, but as he came right,
"something broke and I hit the curb in the second turn (of the
chicane)."

Servia wasn't injured and said he was impressed with how quickly
the safety team reached him. He remained inside the car as the
safety team rolled it over by hand. "I was very impressed with how
smooth they were turning the car over," Servia said.

It was Servia's second consecutive high-speed crash after
hitting the wall in Milwaukee two weeks ago. He said he will use
the backup car Saturday.

Pit stops
Pagenaud, a 22-year-old rookie, set a track record
of 1:05.700 on lap 3 in the Atlantic qualifying. The previous mark
of 1:07.977 was set by Tonis Kasemets last year. ... Paul Tracy
said the 1.964-mile course was wildly unpredictable. "This track
is very, very sensitive, can be very inconsistent. Like Sebastien
(Bourdais) said today, eight of 10 corners are perfect. Two of them
are bad. ... It's a very funny track to deal with."