After recent speculation that suggested that Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing would not be able to make the start of the 2012 IndyCar Series season on account of the lack of an engine deal, the team will be on the grid after all. Its salvation? The Rahal Letterman Lanigan team has agreed to relinquish its Honda engines set aside to supply a possible second car and give them to SFHR.
We reported earlier this week that the Indianapolis-based team – which had signed Indy Light champion Josef Newgarden to drive its #67 entry – was going to struggle to make the opening races of the IndyCar season on account of it having failed to secure an engine deal with any of the series’ three engine supplier, Honda, Chevrolet or Lotus.
The team had hoped to market itself as an all-American operation with Chevrolet engines, but negotiations broke down and the team was unable to secure an engine deal directly through either Honda or Lotus.
The very prospect of Fisher’s team – one of the most popular in the series – being frozen out of this year’s competition rightly upset many fans across the world, and criticism was heaped upon IndyCar Series management for not taking proper steps to ensure that the championship’s three engine suppliers were in a position to supply as many teams as necessary.
But the good news finally came through overnight, meaning that the team will be lining up at St Petersburg next month.
“Everyone at SFHR is ecstatic,” team co-owner Sarah Fisher said in a media statement.
“My heart has been in IndyCar for several years, and I couldn’t be more thrilled to enter a season as a full-time owner … I’m really proud of the hard work by so many to pull this package together.”
The outcome would not have been possible without the support of rival team owner Bobby Rahal, who opted to abandon his plans of setting up a second car to run alongside Takuma Sato for the 2012 season.
Fisher believes that her earlier support of Bobby’s son, fellow IndyCar racer Graham Rahal, played a big part in the decision to relinquish his claims on the batch of Honda engines assigned to him. In 2010, Fisher stepped out of the cockpit of her own team for four races to give Rahal Jr a chance to prove himself and secure a full-time drive – he managed to do so, with the frontrunning Chip Ganassi team.
“Bobby once again personified the definition of a gentleman and sportsman, remembering how we helped his son Graham,” Fisher continued. “This is a wonderful example of paying it forward.”
“The team did great things for Graham when he didn’t have a program, and I am happy we were in a position to help her,” added Rahal Sr. “Like the many fans of the team, we are happy that SFHR and Josef Newgarden will compete for a full season in 2012.”
Rahal had hoped to sign last year’s GP2 Series championship runner-up, Luca Filippi, into a second seat in his operation, but Filippi was also unable to bring enough funding to the table to make it happen. Nonetheless, Rahal hopes that he can give the Italian the chance to compete at selected races over the course of the 2012 season.