Rahal Letterman Lanigan pushing ahead with recruitment drive

Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing hopes to fill more than 10 vacancies within its NTT IndyCar Series program. Among its particular needs, RLL is seeking to hire all manner of engineers as its technical ranks have been depleted since the season ended in early September.

“There’s really two things going on,” RLL COO Steve Eriksen told RACER. “One is yes, with Ganassi trying to hire however many people for their fifth car, and McLaren paying McLaren wages for people, there’s a lot of competition for talent happening. And some of the numbers that are being thrown around are, frankly, quite crazy. Unless you’ve got a benefactor that’s covering all those costs, it’s tough to cover it with sponsorship. That’s one thing that’s going on.”

Under a new engineering initiative created by RLL technical director Stefano Sordo, the three-car team is also trying to expand its engineering group to better match the size and depth found within its championship-winning rivals.

“The other thing is under Stefano, he has created an organizational structure for the future that he’s been implementing,” Eriksen added. “And so a portion of the positions are to fill that structure up in the way that he’s laid out. So we’ve actually got a number of people that have started and some other ones that are starting in January, that are part of that build up so that we have an engineering organization that is prepped for success in the future.”

RLL got off to a rough start last season as its off-season engineering efforts did not deliver the improvements that were anticipated. Ovals were the biggest problem where all four of RLL’s Indianapolis 500 entries were slow and team veteran Graham Rahal failed to qualify for the race.

Eriksen, the ex-Honda Performance Development VP who joined the team in January and brings exceptional leadership and operational skills to the team, saw value in Sordo’s revised approach to RLL’s engineering organizational chart and has supported the necessary expansion that’s under way.

“I reviewed the structure that Stefano was proposing,” he said. “I was worried that it would be him coming from Formula 1 and having champagne tastes on a beer budget, but in reality, what he proposed was quite sensible. And I said, ‘This looks good, but we need to be essentially ‘budget neutral’ to do that.’ So that required some reshuffling of the makeup of the group to do that, and the net effect is we’ll have more people in engineering than what we started with.

“He’s bringing in a combination of people with IndyCar experience, some of which have already started and are already helping us out, and some that are coming from his relationships in Formula 1 that will build out that that chart.”

After placing too much reliance on its race engineers to oversee all of its engineering research and development projects in recent years, RLL is investing in dedicated R&D personnel to complement its race engineering teams attached to the Nos. 15, 30, and 45 Honda.

“In the past, I think one of the challenges we’ve had has been that unlike Ganassi for example, where they have an R&D group, and that R&D group does work year-round for anything that’s needed, whether it’s IndyCar, IMSA, Extreme E, or whatever, that’s not what we’ve had,” Eriksen said.

“It’s definitely the way you want to go, because progress can be made all year, regardless of what race you’re traveling to. And at Rahal, what I found was that they had depended entirely on the race engineers as their R&D staff, and you can see where that’s a problem. So we are building up staff that can be year-round, dedicated to making the cars go faster. And that’s where some of those new positions we’re working to fill have come from.”

Story originally appeared on Racer