ZIONSVILLE, Ind. — Bobby Rahal is in the market for a new racing driver to take over one of his team’s cars.
Rahal-Letterman-Lanigan Racing and Jack Harvey parted ways earlier this month and the team has since said they would be “gauging talent” over the IndyCar season’s final three races. After giving a shot to Conor Daly to drive the #30-car on the oval at Gateway, RLL is going in a different direction on the final road courses of the season.
The team will bring in Juri Vips to drive for the team at Portland and at Laguna Seca.
“I’ve been out of the car for a while,” Vips said. “I just did a test this year back in March in Barber, so there’s been a lot of anticipation for this event, but you know, to finally get back in the car. Just honestly really grateful, really grateful for the opportunity that Bobby and Team Rahal has given me.”
The reason Vips has been out of a car is because of a checkered past. Vips, who is from Estonia, was previously coming up in the FIA ladder in Europe. He was as high as Formula 2 in Red Bull’s junior program. But, in June 2022 he lost his ride with Red Bull after being heard on a Twitch feed during a SIM racing event using a racial slur.
“It’s no secret that he made a mistake and paid a huge price,” said Rahal. “But people in Europe who I knew were very, very complimentary about him as a driver and as a person. He has really, I think, atoned for it through some of the programs, diversity training programs, that he’s been involved with both in England and here in the United States.”
Vips is not a stranger to IndyCar. He tested for RLL at Sebring in 2021 and again before the 2023 season’s start at Barber. Vips is confident that he can get the hang of the type of racing you see in North American open-wheel racing.
“The cars, essentially they are quite similar downforce, quite similar in horsepower than F-2, which I have decent amount of experience in, but there’s so many differences,” Vips said. “It’s a completely different racing series. I’m sure I’ll learn a lot during the race weekend.”
Rahal said even though Vips is getting a shot in the season’s final two races for RLL, a firm decision has not been made on who will get the full-time ride in the #30-car for the 2024 season. He said they are still in talks with several drivers about the ride.
Rahal said it will mainly come down to sponsorship dollars as well as finding the right talent to take the seat.
Also on the line are Leader’s Circle points. Rahal was sure to add that Conor Daly did a “superb job” driving the car on the oval at Gateway. His finish there put the #30-car 22nd in the Leader’s Circle standings in which only the Top 22 cars can receive bonus money upon the end of the season.
Rahal expects to have a little more clarity on who will drive the car full-time next season soon after the 2023 season comes to an end.
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RLL Gives Vips His Chance At IndyCar For Season’s Final Two Races was originally published on wibc.com
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