Spencer Pigot’s first Indy Lights weekend sweep the next step in his career

Leave a comment

It was the next logical step for Spencer Pigot.

After posting two weekend sweeps in each of the prior two ladders on the Mazda Road to Indy rung, Pigot delivered his first in Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires this weekend at Barber Motorsports Park.

He had two apiece in the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda (St. Petersburg and VIR, 2012) and Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires (St. Petersburg and Barber, 2014) respectively.

Both his Saturday and Sunday wins were crushing flag-to-flag romps from pole position, aboard the No. 12 Mazdaspeed-backed Dallara-IL15 Mazda for Juncos Racing.

His Sunday win was the middle chapter of Rising Star Racing’s three-race Sunday sweep, with Neil Alberico (Pro Mazda) and Josef Newgarden (IndyCar) winning races either side of him.

And for Pigot, the wins meant so much after two third-place finishes at St. Petersburg and a hard-luck second at Long Beach to open his Indy Lights account.

“It’s very special,” Pigot told MotorSportsTalk post-race on Sunday. “It was the first one in Indy Lights, for me, the team, we worked really hard.

“We knew it was coming with the speed we had in Long Beach. To come here and not just win, but put a huge gap on the guys behind us, is huge for us and our confidence. It’s very important.”

Pigot has rarely had the consistency to match his pace throughout his four previous years, but with the perfect five-for-five podium start to open 2015 he’s in a very good position for the rest of the year.

Pigot knew he and his Juncos Racing team – having had a year to work together in Pro Mazda last year – have a baseline and have sought to improve it even more at every race thus far this year.

“In Indy Lights, the teams are so good to adapt very quickly,” Pigot explained. “We saw that at St. Petersburg with the Carlin guys, and us, Carlin and a few other guys in Long Beach. I’m not sure track experience is that big a difference where everyone is so good.”

He’ll head to Indianapolis Motor Speedway for the Angie’s List Grand Prix of Indianapolis weekend looking to rebound after finishing eighth in both races last year, despite qualifying on pole for both.

“I enjoyed the track I guess,” Pigot said. “We had a lot of pace and qualified on pole both races.

“But the first lap is always hectic there with the big long straights and the heavy brake zones.

“As long as we can keep the same pace and stay out of trouble we’ll be OK. But that’s the trick. We just need to get through the first few corners.”

Sebastien Ogier in driver’s seat for sixth straight World Rally Championship title

Sebastien Ogier leads the way in the WRC title chase. Photo: Getty Images
Leave a comment

COFFS HARBOUR, Australia (AP) — Thierry Neuville finished the sixth stage of Rally Australia on Friday without a rear left tire, damaging his chances of catching five-time defending champion Sebastien Ogier for the World Rally Championship title.

The Belgian driver entered the rally just three points behind Ogier in the closest title fight in 15 years.

He held the upper hand on his French rival, building a near-10 second gap through the first five stages at Coffs Harbour before hitting a chicane and finishing the stage with only three tires on his Hyundai.

Neuville was fortunate the puncture occurred late enough in the day to finish all six forestry stages and avoid a retirement. But the mistake cost him 40 seconds and gave Ogier, who is 33 seconds ahead of him, a clear run at his sixth straight championship.

In his last start with Ford before a move to Citroen next year, Ogier struggled as the first to drive the dusty, slippery forest routes.

“I pushed like crazy, I was on the limit over the jump and everywhere, I can’t do (any) more,” Ogier said. “I was on the limit.”

With Ogier on sweeping duties the back markers flourished, and Mads Ostberg took the lead in his return to the series.

Ostberg was forced to miss the previous round in Spain to make way for rally winner and nine-time world champion Sebastien Loeb, who was making the last of his three guest appearances for Citroen.

Now back in the seat, Ostberg leads Jari-Matti Latvala by 6.8 seconds in the Australian rally, with sixth-stage winner Craig Breen in third.

Ogier was seventh, 38.2 seconds off the pace, but only needs to finish ahead of Neuville to claim the championship title. Neuville is in 10th place after six stages.

Roles will reverse on Saturday, with Ogier to start further back in the field and do his best on cleaner roads to make up the day-one deficit before Sunday’s final stages.

Andreas Mikkelsen, the 2016 Rally Australia champion, was an early dropout after rolling into a ditch in his Hyundai. Mikkelsen had only just avoided a tractor that had found its way onto the course.

Former winner Molly Taylor and co-driver Malcolm Read were also forced out of their event when their Subaru hit a hay bale at high speed on the morning’s second stage. Both reported soreness but suffered no serious injuries.

The 24-stage rally totals 319 kilometers (197 miles). Ten stages are scheduled Saturday with the final six on Sunday, most of them through forests on the New South Wales state’s north coast about 530 kilometers (325 miles) north of Sydney.