The learning process for Verizon IndyCar Series rookies Spencer Pigot and Alexander Rossi began in earnest when the calendar flipped from February to March.
The two American drivers drove their race cars for the first time as part of a two-day test at Sebring International Raceway as team’s prepared for the March 13 Firestone Grand Prix of Sebring.
“It’s been a positive day and a half, so far,” said Rossi, who is transitioning back to the American open-wheel racing scene after spending the last several years spent climbing the European ladder series to Formula 1. “The car is pretty similar to other things I’ve driven. There’s quite a bit of downforce which is fun for a driver to have. At the end of the day, it’s an enjoyable car to drive and I’m looking forward to racing it next week.”
Both drivers tested on March 1 along with Team Penske’s quartet of Helio Castroneves, Will Power, Juan Pablo Montoya and Simon Pagenaud, KVSH Racing’s Sebastien Bourdais and Rossi’s Andretti Autosport teammates Marco Andretti, Ryan Hunter-Reay and Carlos Munoz
“The first set of tires was a bit of a learning experience, but I think by mid-morning yesterday, we were on pace with everyone else. The adaptation came pretty quick, now it’s just working on test items. I tink we’re pretty pleased with the way the team has come together and performed as a whole.”
While it wasn’t the first time Pigot, the 2015 Indy Lights champion, had driven an Indy car, he was working with Rahal Letterman Lanigan for the first time. He spent a lot of the time out of the car talking with engineer Neil Fife and with Graham Rahal and his engineer Eddie Jones.
“Really enjoying working with everyone and we’ve really improved the car over the last two days,” Pigot said. “There’s a lot of things for me to get used to with the car and the way the team operates, but they’ve been doing a great job getting me comfortable.
“Even though I’ve driven a car before, it’s been so long since that test day that I had to re-learn everything anyway. The amount of speed you can carry through the corners because of the downforce and the grip of the tires is really impressive.”
With their first test out of the way, the learning curve gets steeper the next time the rookies get in a car at St. Petersburg. Pit stops, Firestone alternate tires and a daunting street course await.
“There will be more things to get used to there,” Pigot said. “Never used a red tire, or had a pit stop in a race, so it will be another learning experience, but I’m thankful for the guys here who can teach me along the way.”