Estonian driver Jüri Vips looks set to continue with Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing, though possibly not as one of the team's main drivers. Vips made two appearances for the team at the end of this season's North American IndyCar Championship.
On Monday, Rahal Letterman Lanigan announced the signing of Brazilian driver Pietro Fittipaldi, who will race alongside the team's current drivers Graham Rahal and Christian Lundgaard next season.
Despite that, Rahal Letterman Lanigan are not willing to let Vips go, though the Estonia's precise role with the team is yet to be confirmed. The Estonian may still be able to drive for the whole of next season, or not drive at all.
"We are counting on Jüri for the long term. We would like to bring a fourth car onto the grid. Things aren't moving as fast as we'd like, but there's definitely hope," team co-owner Bobby Rahal told Racer.com.
"Maybe just for certain races. Maybe just one, maybe not even one. We're not really sure. But the one thing we do know is that we want to keep Jüri."
This year, Vips competed in the final two stages of the North American IndyCar Series in Portland and Laguna Seca. Although his results on the track were not overly impressive in terms of his final placing, the Estonian raced well and proved he could compete against more experienced drivers.
"I have to say that he did everything we asked him to do. I think he showed that he is capable of competing at the front in IndyCar. He's a good young man," Rahal continued.
For that reason, the Americans definitely want to retain Estonian and use him next season, at the very least as a test driver. Next season, the IndyCar hybrid engine system is set to be introduced, and so Vips is already among the first drivers to get to grips with it.
According to Rahal, Vips, Lundgaard and Fittipaldi have all been working hard on the simulator to familiarize themselves with the new system.
"It will really help us to pick up the momentum a lot quicker, because we will have this prior experience. I think we've got four drivers who will help the team going forward."
If IndyCar does not work out for Vips, the aim is to find an outlet for him in another series, such as the IMSA LMP2 [Le Mans Prototype 2].
"I introduced him to the P2 [LMP2] guys at the Atlanta circuit, in order to do what I could to help him. But we definitely want to keep him because he's a very, very good driver and he's still working for us," Rahal said.
Editor: Michael Cole