Sordo departure to trigger technical reshuffle at RLL

The Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing IndyCar team is preparing for a significant change to its engineering group.

Formula 1 aerodynamics expert Stefano Sordo joined RLL as its new technical director with plenty of fanfare in September of 2022, and after informing the team of his intent to return to F1, the Italian will exit his post after the May 26 Indianapolis 500.

Following a humbling month of May in 2023 when one of the RLL entries owned by Bobby Rahal, Mike Lanigan, and David Letterman failed to qualify, Rahal and Lanigan made sizable investments into the team’s engineering group, which have made the team more competitive under Sordo’s management.


“He’s working through our month of May stuff; we put a lot of work into our Indy ‘recovery project,’ as Bobby calls it,” RLL COO Steve Eriksen told RACER. “So he’s looking forward to seeing that through to its conclusion. The whole engineering group that he’s assembled is pretty impressive. We’ve got some really high-level folks in our program these days, which is awesome.

“And he’s working through seeing that completed with a successful month of May, given the challenges we had last year. I think we’re going to be in a lot better spot, not only because everyone of our own work, but also because Honda has put in a ton of work, too. We’re excited about that.”

Prior to the arrival of Sordo and Eriksen, RLL relied upon an ageing research and development model in which the team’s race engineers, performance engineers, and assistant engineers used whatever limited time they had between races to look for areas where more overall speed could be found and applied to their cars. With renewed financial commitments from Lanigan Rahal, RLL spent heavily on hiring more engineers and developing a new full-time R&D program that functions as its own entity within the team.

With the bolstered engineering team and structure in place, the impending exit of RLL’s technical director should be less of a disruption. At most of the other IndyCar teams, the loss of a technical director would have dire competitive consequences, but thanks to RLL’s relatively flat organizational chart, Sordo’s departure isn’t expected to affect the team’s on-track performance.

While Eriksen declined to comment on the details of Sordo’s upcoming departure, he did say that rather than start a search for a new technical director, the quality of the people in the engineering group could inspire RLL to rely on those within the team to lead it into the future.

“I think we’ve built up such a strong team of people that I feel like we’ve got the right group in place to be able to do great things going forward,” Eriksen said. “You spend a fair amount of time investing in good people and then the payoff comes later. And that’s absolutely the case here.

“We’re going to see the benefits of the team that Stefano put together far into the future. And definitely Bobby and Mike have been so supportive of that, which is absolutely wonderful.”

Eriksen made another move in recent weeks to strengthen the team’s Indy 500 resources by signing former RLL driver and 1999 Indy 500 winner Kenny Brack to support Graham Rahal, Christian Lundgaard, Pietro Fittipaldi, and two-time Indy 500 winner Takuma Sato.

Similar to the roles three-time Indy winner Dario Franchitti plays with Chip Ganassi Racing and 2013 Indy winner serves for Arrow McLaren, Brack brings a layer of insight and observation from a driver’s perspective that was warmly receive at the April Indy Open Test.

“I was so impressed with him,” Eriksen said. “He’s a megastar. My original thinking was, we put so much work into improving the cars, why not work to improve the drivers with the help of an Indy 500 winner? And Kenny sees so many things; his ability to observe and feed those observations back to our drivers and back to us has really been invaluable.”

Story originally appeared on Racer