The Panther Racing IndyCar team has launched legal action in relation to the defection of long-time sponsor, National Guard, which recently confirmed it had jumped ship to the Rahal Letterman Lanigan squad for the forthcoming season.

The suit was filed in the Indiana courts last week, where RLL, the IndyCar Series, John Metzler and Document and Packaging Brokers Inc are listed as the defendants.

Metzler and Document & Packaging Brokers form part of the suit due to the former being a member of National Guard’s Bueau, while the latter administers the army reserve group’s sponsorship portfolio.

The claim alleges that Document & Packaging Brokers – also known as DocuPak – solicited up to six different teams (of whom four subsequently expressed formal interest) as it looked to move the National Guard dollars to another team.

The Rahal Letterman Lanigan team was verbally awarded the contract last September, and the rumour was widely known among IndyCar circles pretty soon after ahead of the former announcement being made earlier this month.

Panther Racing got wind of the rumour and unsuccessfully protested the decision to the US Government Accountability Office. The GAO rejected Panther’s claims that it had been unfairly prejudiced because the assessment of the proposals was handled by DocuPak, rather than the National Guard.

One factor not doubt weighing on DocuPak’s decision was that RLL’s asking price was some $4.5 million less than the $17.2 million being requested by Panther for the 2014 season.

The National Guard’s colours will be run on Graham Rahal’s car for the forthcoming IndyCar Series season.

The departure of National Guard from Panther Racing’s books could put the team in serious strife with the season-opening race at St Petersburg just over a month away.

The team’s poor 2013 season resulted in it being left off the IndyCar’s Leaders Circle bonus payment scheme, meaning a further loss of potential revenue, assuming it even lines up for the coming season at all.

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Geoff Burke

Journalist at MotorsportM8
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