When the Winter Olympics gets under way in Sochi in under a week, IndyCar bigwigs up and down the paddock will be keeping a watchful eye on the slopes above the Russian town.
That’s because both former Panther Racing engineer David Cripps and Rahal Letterman Lanigan co-owner Bobby Rahal have both played a big part in developing the bobsleds used by the USA Winter Olympic Team.
Cripps hasn’t lost the sense of speed he observed when working in IndyCar, instead thinks of this as the same challenge in a new environment: “My responsibilities are very similar to an IndyCar race engineer. I am basically responsible for the performance, reliability, development and day-to-day running of the sleds. There has been a fairly large amount of development upgrades coming up to the Games.
“There are similarities to IndyCar racing, and it has been such an invigorating challenge to learn a new form of racing. So far, this has been an amazing adventure and the best is yet to come. It truly has been an honor to work with such an amazing group of athletes and coaches. Their level of effort and dedication is commendable.”
Indeed that level of dedication was mirrored when the US team asked BMW DesignWorks USA to build them a new sled, with Bobby Rahal – who runs BMWs effort in the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship – offering technical advice and a new steering mechanism.
“(Technical Director) Jay (O’Connell) suggested various changes to the geometry of the steering and we manufactured the pieces in the shop and the guys absolutely loved it,” team co-owner Bobby Rahal said. “The first race they dominated. It makes you feel good that you contributed to the success of the program.”
Rahal has a bigger weight on his shoulders than most, he is the Chairman of the US Bob and Skeleton Foundation: “My major responsibility as chairman of the foundation, which is different from the actual team, is to create the funding opportunities so the program continues to have financial stability and not just going year to year looking for sponsorship.
“It’s meant to create a financial base, and that means me contacting companies and individuals to contribute. We’ve had some good response and raise some significant sums, but that’s a never-ending process.
“It’s a thrill for me, and I’m a huge fan and supporter of the Olympic ideal and spirit, especially Americans competing against the best the world has to offer. Hopefully, we’ll bring that gold home again.”