Bobby Rahal says the extent of RLLR’s second-car program depends on funding, and doesn’t expect to be able to test with Pigot until next year
IndyCar team owner Bobby Rahal has expressed his desire to run Spencer Pigot in more than the three races guaranteed by the young American’s Indy Lights championship victory.
The three-time IndyCar drivers’ champion said: “Funding plays a role for anybody, any team, but we’ve already received some interest. So the goal is to run Spencer as much as we can in 2016.”
Pigot was this morning confirmed in a second-car program at Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing, that will see him make his IndyCar debut at the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg in March, and follow this with the Grand Prix of Indianapolis and the 100th Indy 500 in May.
In a teleconference this afternoon involving Rahal, Pigot and Dan Andersen, who runs the Mazda Road To Indy, Rahal explained his choice of races.
“We thought that these three events, we could do those and do them well,” he stated. “The last thing I want to do is do them poorly, then Spencer ends up bearing the brunt of that. But I think the team is in real good shape after last year. These three events were easy for us to do with personnel, especially because two of them are in Indianapolis, and it seemed like a good starting point.
“The goal still is, of course, to see how many more races we can do, all depending on funding. But first things first. I’m just pleased we’re going to have more than one race with Spencer. We’ll have some time to get to know him, do some testing.
“I always thought he went about his craft in a great way,” Rahal continued. “After winning Pro Mazda, then this year in Indy Lights, I thought he really used his head and went about his craft in a great way. I think that’s so important.”
Andersen added: “Seeing a fine young prospect like Spencer develop and train and move up the ladder is really what the Mazda Road To Indy program is about. It is unlike anything else in the world. Thank you, Bobby, for stepping up and providing a fantastic opportunity for Spencer. I think he’s going to surprise a lot of people and do very well in his rookie year.”
First test unlikely before 2016
Rahal admitted the testing regulations will define the date and venue of Pigot’s first test with RLLR. He said: “The 12 day [limit] is for a full-season team, and that includes everything – official tests, tire tests, manufacturer’s tests. It’s pretty restrictive.
“Obviously for Spencer, there’s rookie orientation and the opportunity will be there to test at Sebring, once we get the updated aero kits sorted out on the cars. We want to improve his odds as much as we can, but that is limited by the rules.
“So we have to be pretty smart about how we test and where we test. We want to make sure that when we do the testing, that the car is in the spec it’s going to be in when he actually competes with it. We want to make sure from an aero standpoint, we are where we need to be. I imagine it will be early in ’16 when we go out with Spencer the first time.”
“It’s obviously a big jump [from Indy Lights],” Pigot added. “The cars are a lot bigger, a lot more physically demanding. I got a taste of it at Sonoma a few months ago [in a test with Team Penske]. That definitely opened my eyes a bit, but I’m back in Indy now, so I’ll be training at PitFit, getting me ready for next year. Just have to work on my neck and upper body strength
“But I felt pretty good after the test at Sonoma. So just have to fine-tune some things and continue to do what I’ve been doing the last couple years.
“Any time you get to drive an IndyCar is fantastic. At least I know more or less the process of the car, driving style. I learned a lot at Sonoma which I can continue to work on and build from.”