DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – It wasn’t the way Spencer Pigot wanted his race to end, but it did create a scene.
Pigot had worked his way back into the top five overall in the late stages of the Rolex 24 At Daytona when flames erupted from the gearbox of his No. 55 Mazda Motorsports DPi – which, like all of the new cars in the Prototype class, was making its debut in the longest and most demanding race of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season.
Pigot, whose fulltime job in 2017 is driving Verizon IndyCar Series road and street course races in the No. 20 Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet, brought the Mazda to a halt on pit road as flames and smoke became visible under the engine cover.
Rescue workers pulled him from the smoky cockpit without injury. However, Pigot’s day was finished, along with the efforts of co-drivers Tristan Nunez and Jonathan Bomarito. The car was scored 11th in the Prototype class and 40th overall in the 55-car field when the checkered flag six hours later in the endurance.
Pigot, who drove in 11 Verizon IndyCar Series races as a rookie in 2016, enjoyed rallying into the top five after the car had radio issues early on that resulted in a stop-and-hold penalty for passing the pace car when Pigot couldn’t understand his instructions during a full-course caution. But he didn’t enjoy the flames.
“Shame to end our race so spectacularly but it was fun while it lasted,” Pigot posted on Twitter. “Ready for the next one with @MazdaRacing.”
The 23-year-old Floridian wasn’t the only INDYCAR driver to suffer with the Mazda prototypes. James Hinchcliffe, along with co-drivers Tom Long and Joel Miller, finished 12th in class and 46th overall after the No. 70 Mazda encountered mechanical issues that kept it in the garage area for hours overnight undergoing repairs.
“What a crazy 24hr race!” Hinchcliffe tweeted. “After a total gearbox change we came up 28 mins short of the finish! So much heart went into this effort. Next year!”
Hinchcliffe will be driving the No. 5 Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda when the 17-race Verizon IndyCar Series season gets under way March 10-12 with the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg (noon ET, ABC). It marks the seventh straight year that the series opens its slate on the streets of the Florida city.
Legge receives prestigious UK honor a second time
Katherine Legge, who has 39 Indy car starts including two Indianapolis 500s on her racing resume, was named winner Saturday of the prestigious Lord Wakefield Trophy at the Motor Sports Association of the United Kingdom’s annual “Night of Champions” ceremony held at the Royal Automobile Club in London.
The 36-year-old native of Surrey, England, was busy competing in the Rolex 24, however, and was unable to accept in person. Legge was a co-driver of the No. 93 Michael Shank Racing Acura NSX GT3 along with Graham Rahal, Andy Lally and Mark Wilkins that ran strong in its debut before mechanical woes and body damage ended the car’s day less than an hour from the finish. The No. 93 wound up 11th in the GT Daytona class and 29th overall.
Still, Legge was honored to be named the Lord Wakfield recipient a second time. She was recognized this year for her dedication and consistently high achievement, primarily the past four seasons with the unique DeltaWing that competed in sports car competition through 2016. She became the first woman to lead the Rolex 24 while driving the DeltaWing.
“I’m absolutely delighted and honored to receive this award,” said Legge, who recorded a video acceptance speech played at the event. “It’s lovely to be awarded the Lord Wakefield trophy, and very humbling. I have been extremely fortunate to be involved in motorsport throughout my life. I am grateful for every opportunity I have been given in our sport, and will do my best to be a worthy recipient of this honor.”
The award is presented by the MSA on behalf of the British Women’s Racing Drivers’ Club.