It was looking like Spencer Pigot’s return to Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing might end with a podium at the GMR Grand Prix. Running directly behind teammate Graham Rahal on Lap 60 of the 80-lap Indianapolis road course event, the Floridian’s fortunes soured when something went awry in the engine bay; Rahal would go on to finish second for the reinvigorated team.
Despite the lost opportunity for the No. 45 Citrone/Buhl RLL Honda, Pigot was impressed with what he found at the team where he made his NTT IndyCar Series debut in 2016.
“A lot of the same people are there so it wasn’t like going to a brand-new team, which is nice; and I didn’t have to learn everyone’s name, so that was nice. But it was it our first time together, and we had practice and qualifying right away,” Pigot told RACER.
“None of the guys had gone to a test or done anything like that, so we really had to be on our game right away, and it helped that the car was pretty solid from the get-go. I hadn’t driven since Laguna [Seca] in September, but it all came back to me pretty quick. Took a few laps remembering what it felt like to drive an Indy car again, but then it felt comfortable.
“The aeroscreen was also new for me,” Pigot continued, “but I was quite pleased with that. After a few laps, visually I didn’t really know it was there. Could definitely feel that it was there in terms of how hot it was in the car, but it was pretty trouble free.
“Overall, it was just good to be back.”
Disappointed to qualify 16th, Pigot wasted no time in rectifying the problem by making a number of passes in the opening laps to hold 10th as he began working a two-stop strategy while most of the field went for three. He ran towards the front in the latter half of the race, dropped to seventh on his last pit stop, then resumed the charge forward with Rahal on fast new Firestone red tires until being forced to retire just six laps from the checkered flag.
“In the race, the whole team was obviously really quick,” Pigot said. “We did the two-stop strategy, so it was tricky to save enough fuel to make it work; but we still had good pace. We were plugging away, passing cars, moving up, and it was looking pretty good to have sticker reds there at the end to go after Graham and hopefully get a couple of our cars on podium. But I guess it just wasn’t meant to be this time.”
In the new alliance between RLL and co-entrants Robert Citrone and former IndyCar driver Robbie Buhl, Pigot’s No. 45 Honda will complete its two-event schedule in August at the Indy 500. Based on the potential shown at the GMR GP, the 2015 Indy Lights champion is hopeful for more opportunities to show he’s worthy of a full-time return to IndyCar.
“The Indy 500’s our next race, and that’s all that’s on the cards at the minute,” he said. “It would’ve been cool to be up on the podium on the first race for Citrone/Buhl, but I think the team knows what we are capable of doing. We had that last stint where we were running third and we had already worked hard to get up there, so it wasn’t a fluke. Everyone knows how well we were doing inside the team, and hopefully it can lead to more races.”