Spencer Pigot: From the Indy Lights Title to the Rolex 24
 January 28, 2016| 
  • Series News
Reigning Champ Teams with Mazda for Sports Car Debut

DAYTONA Beach, Fla. – By winning the Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires championship last September, Spencer Pigot became the first four-time Mazda scholarship winner having captured four titles in five years on the Mazda Road to Indy. And to the winner come the opportunities as the 22-year-old Floridian gets behind the wheel of a Mazda Prototype this weekend at one of the biggest sports car races in the world – the Rolex 24 At Daytona, race one of the 2016 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship.

“I spent five years on the Mazda Road to Indy,” said Pigot. “It was a great journey and I learned a lot every year. I drove for some good teams, had great teammates and great driver coaches. The first four years of training led to the Indy Lights success. It was great to be with Mazda and Cooper Tire for so long. And now I’m here at the Rolex 24 At Daytona, driving the Mazda Prototype. I’m very fortunate and I can’t wait to get going.”

Pigot first became a Mazda Development Driver by winning the Skip Barber Shootout in 2009. Winning the Skip Barber National Series title in 2010 earned him a ride in the 2011 Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda. Moving up another rung in 2013, he took the Pro Mazda Presented by Cooper Tires title in 2014 and once again took advantage of the scholarship opportunity to win the Indy Lights championship. His Indy Lights scholarship has helped him achieve his dream: a coveted ride in the 2016 Verizon IndyCar Series, driving for Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing at St. Petersburg, the Grand Prix of Indianapolis and the 100th Running of the Indianapolis 500.

Not long after Pigot secured the Indy Lights championship, he received a call from John Doonan, Mazda North America’s Director of Motorsports, inviting him to Daytona in November to test the manufacturer’s sports car. After a successful test, Pigot was announced as the third driver in the Soul Red #55 Mazda Motorsports Prototype and finds himself racing in his first endurance sports car race. Pigot joins 2003 USF2000 champion Jonathan Bomarito and 2012 Mazda Prototype Lites champion Tristan Nunez. 

While so much is different between Pigot’s Indy Lights car and the Mazda Prototype, at least one aspect of the two cars is very much the same.

“At least the Soul Red color is familiar!” said Pigot. “The car was quite a bit different at first. You’re sitting inside the cockpit and it’s a right-hand drive car – I’ve never driven a right-hand drive car, only center drive or left-hand drive. You can’t see a huge amount off to the side, especially if you’re turning right, but you get used to it after a while. It’s a really fun car to drive, which reminds me of the Indy Lights car. That was great training to jump into this car but that’s what the Mazda Road to Indy is designed to do: train you to be a professional race car driver in the top levels of the sport, whether it’s an Indy car or an IMSA prototype.”

Growing up near Orlando, Pigot used to attend the Rolex 24 as a youngster. But watching from the stands and managing his own personal pace for 24 hours are two very different propositions. Used to being the only driver in the car, Pigot now shares the car with his two teammates – and with that comes a degree of added responsibility.

“It will be long stints, with only three of us in the car. It will demand a lot of effort and focus from the drivers, for each of us to pull our weight and bring the car back in good condition for the next guy. I want to be consistent and stay out of trouble. It will be the longest I’ve ever been in the car, which is good training for an IndyCar race.”

Pigot will begin his IndyCar career on March 1, testing a RLL Racing Dallara at Sebring International Raceway. He looks forward to taking all the lessons he has learned on the Mazda Road to Indy forward, as he heads into the next – and arguably, most important – step of his career.

“I really put those lessons into effect last year, especially how to manage a championship and think about the big picture. That’s what the Mazda Road to Indy is designed to do – the formation of the ladder, the types of cars you drive, the progression through the series is designed to be seamless. The cars get progressively bigger and faster. But you also grow as a person. There have been a lot of things I’ve been able to practice and perfect as I head into IndyCar that will definitely make the transition smoother. One of the biggest things is the tracks: I’m going into my first IndyCar race at St. Pete and I’ve done at least 10 races there. Obviously it will be different in a bigger car but that continuity is important. It’s one less thing to learn. The car is so much more physical, with more power and more downforce, so it’s nice to have one less thing that’s completely new!”

Race Update: 

Pigot took the wheel from Bomarito shortly before 9:00 p.m. for his first stint in the Mazda Prototype, with Bomarito pitting from the race lead. However, the #55 wouldn’t restart in the pit box. The team changed the ECU, sending Pigot back out onto the racetrack three laps down. 

But Pigot and the team fought back, with smart moves on the racetrack and solid pit strategy. By the end of the usual triple stint (with the driver remaining in the car, just pitting for fuel and tires) and with the car back on the lead lap, the team asked the young Floridian if he felt up for a nearly-unheard-of fourth stint. Naturally, Pigot was happy to stay in the car (despite being “sore in some places”), with the stint ultimately clocking in at a whopping three hours and 45 minutes. Pigot handed the car to Nunez shortly after midnight with the team in sixth position. Unfortunately, the gremlins soon returned, as a valve train issue caused a fire that put the car out of the race. With nine laps in the lead and a positive run, the team looks forward to the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring in March - the weekend after the Mazda Road to Indy debuts in St. Petersburg, Florida.

Pigot reports on his first sports car experience: 

“Having the ECU problem definitely threw a curve ball into the race. But the guys got it fixed really quickly. We lost a few laps but with so many hours left, we were able to make them back. I actually didn’t know that I was back on the lead lap until the end of my stint; I kept fighting, just kept pushing. It was crazy out there, so I didn’t really know what was going on, whether I was passing for position or just passing GT cars. There was always something going on. But my last stint was the most fun. I was finally up with the other prototypes and got to fight with some of the other cars in my class, so I’m glad I stuck around for that. 

“It was a totally new experience, with all the traffic, all the pit stops, trying to get laps back. Once you’re down a lap in a sprint race, you’re done, but this is so different. It was a new challenge. We had a few close calls but that’s what it’s all about. I was just happy to hand the car over to my teammate in good shape. I really enjoyed working with Jonathan and Tristan, they’re good friends and awesome drivers. 

“The Rolex 24 is a really cool event. I’ve been coming here for years and I’ve never seen this many fans here! It’s great to see Mazda back where they deserve to be; the package they have now is fantastic. They’ve been working hard and they want to win races – and now they’ve got the speed to do that.”

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