Spencer Pigot was thrilled to get a long and solid day of testing under his wheels at Sebring, in his first test for Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing-Honda.
The American, who captured six wins with Juncos Racing on his way to the 2015 Indy Lights title, told Motorsport.com: “It was good to be back in action. Everyone at the team did a good job and I improved a lot on the car and my driving throughout the day.”
Pigot so far has three races locked in to the calendar, as part of his Mazda Road To Indy prize. One is guaranteed to be an entry in the Indianapolis 500, while the other two will be GP of Indy and the Verizon IndyCar Series season-opener in St. Petersburg, less than two weeks away.
Pigot, from Pasadena, Calif., said he felt today’s test was a substantial help preparing him for a course he knows well having raced it since 2011 as he made his way through the Mazda Road To Indy series.
He also said Sebring offered the best available practice for his debut.
“Sebring is as close as you’re gonna get in preparation for a street course,” observed Pigot. “There are good heavy brake zones, it’s bumpy and there are 90-degree corners. If I only have two days of testing before St. Pete, this is definitely the right place to do it.
He also felt that his physical preparation had paid off.
“I feel good, and I did 160-something laps today,” he said. “But I’ve been training hard in the off-season to make sure that I feel good after a day like this or after St. Pete.
“I have a full day of testing tomorrow, along with everyone else, so maybe I’ll feel a bit sore after that, but I should be fine.”
Second time around
Pigot struggled to compare last year’s car – which he sampled at Sonoma last August – with this year’s because of the six-month gap between the experiences. Instead, he said he felt able to focus on what he’s got.
“[Race engineer] Neil Fife and I get along really well,” said Pigot. “We got to know each other when I was doing a simulator test a couple of months ago, so today we really just picked up from where we left off. It’s been great so far. Neil seems very good at making great changes, and I think he understands already what I like from a car, so it should be a good productive relationship.
“There are things I need to learn about the IndyCar and the way it likes to be driven, so I had to re-familiarize myself with what the DW12 needs to go fast. But the team guys were also very good at listening to what I needed as well. So it was better and better for me throughout the day.
As the first Indy Lights champion in that series’ Dallara IL15, Pigot said with considerable authority that he felt the top series on the Mazda Road To Indy was now far better preparation for IndyCar.
“Yeah, it’s much better than the old [pre-2015] Lights car. The IL15 is very similar in terms of how it reacts to input, and how it reacts under power because obviously it has a turbocharged engine too. Obviously it doesn’t have the same downforce as an IndyCar but it has a lot for a car of that size. So yeah, I think Indy Lights is definitely now pointing young drivers in the right direction.”