Graham Rahal believes the Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing-Honda team will "be in the hunt straight away" in the 2018 IndyCar season, despite not starting testing the new aerokit on-track until January.
Team Penske (Chevrolet) and Schmidt Peterson Motorsports (Honda) were given the original task of testing the universal aerokit, with Ed Carpenter Racing and Chip Ganassi Racing receiving the next two kits.
However, speaking at the announcement of RLLR's title sponsorship with Total oils and fuels for the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach, Rahal says that the strength of the squad's engineering means he can fight for wins from the season-opening Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.
"I think it's a clear advantage for them," he said, "but to be honest, Schmidt was a team that had a lot of testing. The first test, we were quicker than them. I think with good quality engineering staff, with a great team around us, drivers that are capable of getting up to speed quickly, I feel like we'll be right in the hunt right away.
"Clearly a Penske, Ganassi, a team of that stature that have had a lot of off-season testing, it might help them. But I think, as you guys saw with our team in 2015, when a lot of Honda teams were struggling, we made no excuses, went out there and performed really well. I think that's going to be our attitude again."
Rahal was also positive about how many test days were still left to the RLLR team, which will expand this year to two cars with the arrival of defending Indy 500 winner Takuma Sato.
"I believe we should be able to go to St. Pete and we should be able to win," said Rahal. "Frankly, there's a lot of testing. I mean, I'll go to Sebring at least a couple more days, I'll be in Barber a couple days, we got Phoenix [Open Test]. There still is quite a lot of testing.
"I think we need to look beyond the excuses and just focus on what's next."