Talking Audemars Piguet, Ducati Motorbikes, And Racing With Graham Rahal
Cars & motorsport

Talking Audemars Piguet, Ducati Motorbikes, And Racing With IndyCar Driver Graham Rahal

In between race weekends (yes, REAL motorsport is back) IndyCar driver Graham Rahal took some time to talk with us about his very specific motorcycle collection, his penchant for Audemars Piguet, and a very special Rolex Daytona that’s never seen the light of day...

By Bryan Campbell

Watchonista has shined a spotlight on a handful of unlikely watch (and car) collectors in the past, as well as interviewing quite a few race car drivers (HERE), but IndyCar Driver Graham Rahal stands out in a few ways. For one, he collects Ducatis (mostly production number 15 to match his racing number). And almost all of them have zero miles.

As for his timepiece collection, well, he’s a huge fan of Audemars Piguet. But his most prized possession is a Rolex Daytona, which he got for winning (you guessed it) the 24 Hours of Daytona.

We sat down with Rahal to talk about racing in 2020, his Italian two-wheeled obsession, and a certain Daytona with “winner” inscribed on the back that has never left the box.

Interview with Graham Rahal

Bryan Campbell: How’s life now that racing is back? How’s the switch from sim racing back to the real deal?

Graham Rahal: It’s good. I’m very, very, very happy the digital racing has come to a close. I’m not “old,” but I consider myself beyond the generation of die-hard gamers that there is nowadays. For me, I’m just glad that’s come to close, and we can do our thing and go back racing.

BC: What’s the atmosphere like at the track?

GR: There were a lot of people walking around for the first event. I must say I was a little surprised. I expected a ghost town, all things considered, but it’s good to see. It also feels a little off. Compared to the races we’ve done in the past and with the last two being held without fans, it’s a little weird.

GR: We’re in a sport that relies on fans to provide a lot of the atmosphere. When you have a good crowd with a lot of fans, it creates a great atmosphere to go racing. When you don’t have that, it certainly feels very, very different. The world is a little weird right now, but at the same time, we understand what the reasons are for that, and we’re just happy to be racing.

A Love Of Ducati Motorbikes

BC: Changing lanes here, let’s dive into your Ducati motorcycle collection. You seem pretty particular. Do you have a top-five from your collection

GR: Number one would be the Desmosedici. Definitely my favorite. So raw, so pure, it’s a great motorcycle. Number two is the 1299 Superleggera. It’s always treated me well. And I have [production] number 15 because that’s my race number. It’s definitely a badass bike.

GR: From there, I’d go more nostalgic. I’d say the Ben Bostrom 998S would be right up there at the top at number three. Then four and five are completely nostalgic for me, which are 2008 Monster S4RS Tricolore and the 1098 S Tricolore. And those are the two first Ducatis I ever owned, going back 12-13 years ago.

I have been very fortunate. I have number 15 of a lot of them. Even the new V4 I’m taking delivery of at the end of the month, that one is number 15 off of the line. So are my 1199, 1299, 1299 SE, Monster Anniversario, and my V4 Speciale is number 15. And those are really special to me just because that’s my racing number.

BC: Did you snag all of those right off the production line, or did you go hunting for them?

GR: I got all of them from the production line except for the 1199. I had an 1199 Superleggera, from new, but I did not have number 15. Baseball Hall of Famer and friend of mine, Robin Yount is also a Ducati-lover and has a few. He collects production number 19 models since that was his number. He called me and said, “Hey, I’m just going to tell you right now, I found number 15. It’s for sale, and it has no miles.”

What’s interesting about my collection – I’m not necessarily proud of this, and I’m sure a lot of the other Ducati lovers will be upset with me – it’s all zero-mile bikes. The most [mileage] any of them have is probably the Desmo with 20 miles, I think. Someday when racing comes to a close, I do intend to ride them. One day when I have the freedom to not worry about getting hurt.

I’ve had a few other bikes over the years. Different versions of these bikes that I did put miles on. I had a Desmosedici that I loved and rode a lot. I had a previous version of the 1098S from new that I rode a ton as well. It really just came down to the current form of the collection: all no-mile bikes.

BC: What drew you to Ducati in the first place?

GR: It goes back to when I was a kid. My dad wasn’t a motorcycle guy, except for Ducatis. I used to jump on the back of them and go for a ride. To me, a Ducati is an artwork in motion. My dad had a SuperSport and then an M900 when the Monsters came out.

BC: Do you have a daily rider?

GR: If I’m going to ride, a Monster is the way for me. I have my eye on the 1100 Scrambler. But my Monster is the one for my style. I don’t need the speed of a superbike, but the Monster has the power now.

The Connection With Audemars Piguet

BC: Along with your Ducati collection, I hear you have a few timepieces as well, one being fairly difficult to come by, some might say.

GR: I have a few Audemars Piguets, but obviously, the Daytona stands out. In 2011, I won the Daytona 24 overall with Chip Ganassi Racing, so I got a stainless steel example that says “winner” on the back. Definitely a special watch. It’s never seen the light of day. It’s never been out of the box and never will be. I’d like to go back to Daytona and win a couple more and have one to wear. But to me, that is a very, very special watch.

GR: The last hour of that race is so nerve-racking, you’re just waiting for something to go wrong. You never know with that race. Just standing on the podium, and the release that came with that was unforgettable. But that year we won, it was so silky smooth. We had no issues at all.

GR: In fact, my teammate in the other car that year was Juan Pablo Montoya. And when I was talking to Juan a couple of months back, I thanked him again, because, in that race, Juan took out all of our competition. He banged wheels so much on restarts that he literally took out all of our competition. In the end, we were just cruising around. It was just one of those dream-scenarios.

BC: Do you have a daily wear watch?

GR: The Audemars Piguet Carbon was my first. I always dreamed of having an AP, and when I signed on to drive for my dad’s team back in 2012, I happened to be at an AP sponsor event and said, ”You know what, I’m going to do it,“ and bought the Carbon. I was hooked. I wear the Carbon every single day. I’ve worn that watch, abused that watch, and it keeps on ticking, so I have nothing but the greatest respect for the company. And that led me down that path, so I have four or five now.

(Ducati photography by Christopher Owens, Watchonista photography by Liam O'Donnell)

And receive each week a custom selection of articles.

Audemars Piguet Releases Its First Marvel Branded Watch And People Have Thoughts

By Hyla BauerContributor
The Le Brassus-based brand crafted a limited-edition Royal Oak Concept “Black Panther” Flying Tourbillon to launch the first timepiece produced...

Green New Deal: Introducing The Latest Colorful Additions To The Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Family

By Rhonda RicheEditor-At-Large
The classic sport-chic watch now boasts a bevy of beautiful green dials.

The 2020 BMW M8 Competition Is An Exercise In Engineering Excess

By Bryan CampbellContributor
BMW undoubtedly let its engineers loose on the company’s latest halo car, for better and for worse. It’s a mechanical force to be reckoned with...