Pigot excited by IndyCar lifeline with RLL Citrone/Buhl
Spencer Pigot believes that with the Grand Prix of Indianapolis being the first road course race of the NTT IndyCar Series season, he can show well this weekend despite the need to re-adapt to a new team and acclimate himself with the aeroscreen.
As his Road To Indy prize for winning the 2015 Lights title, Pigot raced for Rahal Letterman Lanigan for three races the following year, before being hired by Ed Carpenter Racing. There he remained until the end of last season, when he was replaced by rookie Rinus VeeKay.
However, Pigot, whose best result for ECR was a second place at Iowa in 2018, was hired during the offseason by the new Citrone/Buhl Autosport team to compete in the GMR Grand Prix of Indianapolis with a car operated by RLL.
The 26-year-old from Pasadena, CA, therefore missed the much-delayed 2020 IndyCar season-opener at Texas Motor Speedway, but believes that the GP of Indy being only the second round of the year will work in his favor. His only inhibition will be the lack of experience with the Aeroscreen, with which his rivals gained miles in Spring Training in February.
Pigot commented: “I’ve been going to the shop about three days a week, getting to know all the crew members better, getting comfortable in the car, practicing pit stops, etc.
“I’ve been on the phone with my engineer on a regular basis as well going over some setup ideas and trying to plan out the weekend. We aren’t allowed inside the track until the morning of practice so we are trying to prepare as much as possible before we get to the Speedway.
“The fact that the race was rescheduled will definitely help me a bit. Instead of the GMR Grand Prix being almost mid season, it’s the first road course race of the year so everyone will be trying to get comfortable again.
“Having said that, I think I’m the only driver that has no experience with the aeroscreen so that will be a big difference. I’ve talked to a lot of drivers and they say it doesn’t take too long to get used to. Hopefully that will be the case for me on Friday.”
Given the compressed nature of the schedule of the Friday/Saturday event, Pigot says he’s grateful to be able to pool feedback with RLL incumbents Takuma Sato and Graham Rahal.
“It will be great to work with Graham and Takuma this weekend,” he commented. “They are two of the top drivers in IndyCar so being able to compare data and discuss car changes with them will be very helpful.
“With there being only one practice session, having three cars within one team will allow us to try more changes to make the best decisions before qualifying.
“The last time I was teammates with Graham I was very new to IndyCar. I was still learning what I needed from the car so I’m not sure if we will prefer similar setups or not this time around. [But] I think everyone at Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing and Citrone/Buhl Autosport is expecting us to be competitive.”
The fact that the NASCAR Xfinity Series will be sharing the 13-turn 2.459-mile IMS roadcourse with IndyCar will throw an interesting challenge to the open-wheel pilots, depending on the compatibility of their Firestone tires with the Goodyear rubber laid down by the stockcars.
Pigot observed: “The IMS road course is always pretty tricky. There are some technical sections with corners right on top of each other so you have to be very accurate because one small mistake can affect three or four corners rather than just one.
“We don’t know how the track will change following the NASCAR rubber that will go down before qualifying. We will try our best to predict what will happen but it’s going to be important to be able to react and make adjustments inside the car to get the most out of it.
“The track temperature will most likely be much higher than we have experienced at this track before. Typically, the rubber that is laid down on a track becomes more slippery with higher temperatures but as this track isn’t used very often it might not affect it as much.
“The biggest change for me might be inside the cockpit with it being a hot day and my first race with the aeroscreen.”
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