2015 is quickly coming to a close. However, Sean Rayhall is working to get every last lap out of his self-described "best year of my career". In the closing months of the season, the Atlanta, Georgia-resident wrapped-up the year like a Christmas present. The rising star and multi-discipline racer tested at Daytona and Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, raced at Thunderhill, debuted a new web site and has been deep in negotiations with top tier teams to make the 2016 race season even better.
A mid-December phone call changed Rayhall's holiday plans somewhat. While taking a well-earned vacation, the young talent was asked to attend an early test of French racecar manufacturer Ligier's newest entry into the motorsports landscape, the JSP3 prototype created for the new-in-2016 European Le Mans Series (ELMS) P3 class. Rayhall was on a plane to Spain the next day. The Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya was a perfect venue for Rayhall to experience and review the new closed-top, low-cost prototype and for the Ligier factory and its customer teams to evaluate the American. While only in the car for a short day's session on the 2.89-mile, 16-turn track, Rayhall positively raised European team owner eyebrows further opening opportunities for the upcoming season. For Rayhall, the car proved ideally suited for the mission it has been designed for, being quick but drivable for bronze and silver category drivers. Providing ample power and both mechanical and aerodynamic grip, the Ligier JSP3 should be a perfect fit for the entry levels of professional prototype racing in Europe. Currently, P3 class cars do not have a series in which to compete in the US.
"Getting the last minute call to go test for Ligier in Barcelona was pretty cool," stated Rayhall. "It felt like it wasn't real actually until I was at the track getting fitted in the car. Stepping overseas racing wise has always been a goal of mine and, between Spa with AF Corse and Ligier at Barcelona, it was a surreal year in that respect. The test was great, we had great pace, there was a lot of adjustability in the car and I think in the next few years I'll make it over there to race full time as well. I'm just thankful for Bass Egg and Silver Arrow Technologies, as well as, the rest of the folks who have been opening doors for me. I'm beyond fortunate."
Rayhall, who recently moved from his home in Winston, Georgia to the state capital of Atlanta, closed out the 2015 race season with a return to the longest sports car event in North America, the 25 Hours of Thunderhill. Rayhall competed in the National Auto Sport Association (NASA)-sanctioned race at Thunderhill Raceway in Willows, California in 2014 as well, but left with unfinished business. Returning with ONE Motorsports driving the No. 67 Radical SR3 open-top prototype in the ESR class, the 20 year-old attacked the 2.86-mile, 15-turn track located north of Sacramento capturing the overall race pole position in a lap that surprised many. The driving combination of John Falb, Todd Slusher and Jeff Shafer ran in the top-five overall but was disqualified near the race's midpoint completing 381 of the overall winner's final 690 circuits.
Rayhall recently completed tests in various cars both in Europe and the open IMSA test days at Daytona International Speedway. For the Rolex 24 At Daytona prep session in mid-November, the Georgian was asked to test the Claro/TracFone DeltaWing coupe. By all accounts, the test, Rayhall's first time in the unique low-drag, small engine displacement prototype, was successful. The Braselton, Georgia-based program is yet to set its driving squad for the forthcoming WeatherTech SportsCar Championship Prototype season.
"It was an amazing test with DeltaWing," Rayhall stated. "It felt like a new home again after spending the past few years with 8Star Motorsports. We had a good pace and the team is phenomenal. I was extremely pleased with the test and hope they will give me a shot at a season with them. The team is not only top notch but they're a great group of guys, and that's what you want to be surrounded by in order to make success happen. It would be an honor to be a part of any program that Dr. Panoz has a hand in. He's played such a major role in sports car racing over the years that getting the call from him to represent DeltaWing would be a huge step for my career!"
Multiple season-long and "one-off" programs beyond the IMSA-sanctioned WeatherTech Championship are also being explored. The goal is to place the rising star with the right opportunity to maximize the team and driver's potential in the new season. Final details of his 2016 plans will be announced in the coming weeks.
Rayhall recently re-launched his personal website, www.SeanRayhall.com
, using a new low-cost, sports-focused online tool, athleteengine. Found at www.athleteengine.com
, the resource provides an easily updatable, social media-driven web platform for athletes of all levels ranging from little league baseball to professional motorsports. Rayhall's is a featured site as the driver was an early adopter of the new approach for a web presence.
"It has been a great year but I have to thank everyone that made that possible," Rayhall added. "I can't say enough about all of the team guys that worked so hard in both the open wheel and sports car racing efforts. They made this the best season I've had and I laid it all out there to show that appreciation.
I also want to give a special thank you to Silver Arrow Technologies and Bass Egg. Without their support, and I mean beyond the financial into the friendship and encouragement, none of this year and what we are looking at for 2016 would have been possible. When you are associated with the industry leaders, the absolute best at what they do, it encourages you to be just like them. I have learned so much about how you fight to be the best from my friends at Silver Arrow and Bass Egg!"