Donation Spotlight: 1998 Reynard 98i – Donated by Bobby Rahal

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Modern open-wheel race cars are hardly ever seen twice in the same configuration. Aerodynamic components, engine setup, gearing, and livery change from one race to the next. This is usually the result of changing needs between circuits, but improvements can also be made based on driver input or engineering research. As it sits at the Petersen, the 1998 Reynard 98i tells the story of one day and one specific race which took place Sunday, Nov. 1, 1998.

That day, at the Marlboro 500, racing legend Bobby Rahal lined up on the starting grid of a professional race for the final time. After two decades behind the wheel he would be moving on to full-time team management duties. Though he finished 11th, you would think he had won based on the cheers and accolades given to him by the crowd and by fellow drivers.

In the nearly 20 years since his retirement, Rahal’s presence in the racing world has continued, albeit in a different capacity than when he was on track. He now manages a dealership group, a racing team, and sits on the board at the Petersen, where he generously gives his time and expertise to help further the museum's goals. His generosity extends beyond advice, though, as he recently donated his last Indycar, the Reynard 98i he drove in his last race.

During the 1998 CART season, the 98i was by far the most popular chassis, earning Reynard the Constructors Cup, partially due to Rahal’s efforts in this car. The Ford Cosworth engine that sits behind the driver’s head could propel the car to an astonishing 245 mph, while the grippy racing slicks held the car to the road, even through fast, sweeping turns.

The 875-horsepower beast now sits quietly, but its presence is no less intimidating standing still. The aggressive aerodynamics and a weathered racing patina paint a picture in the mind’s eye, taking museum visitors back to that final race. It stands today as a monument to a wonderful career and to the generosity of a racing legend.

As the elevator doors open on the museum's second floor, visitors are greeted by the white and blue Miller Lite-sponsored car which sits just as it did that day at Fontana. The signatures of his entire team are scrawled across the side pods. As any visitor to the Petersen knows, a car is only as good as its story, and Bobby Rahal’s Reynard 98i would take a library to describe.

Next time you’re at the Petersen, take a moment to explore the car. Find a detail you like, a scratch or a decal that tells you a story. Read more about the car, about Rahal, about the 1998 CART season. Ask one of our staff what the car means to them, or even strike up a conversation with a fellow enthusiast. The Reynard fulfills its purpose today as a social piece, encouraging education and fostering passion in museum visitors.