AUSTIN, Texas (March 2, 2013) – The new Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires commenced with a pair of 12-lap races yesterday and today at Circuit of The Americas, and while Team Pelfrey seemed to bear more than its fair share of misfortune, both of its drivers, returning veteran Petri Suvanto and rookie Spencer Pigot, displayed strong pace. The weekend was highlighted by a fine second-place finish in Race 1 for Pigot and a pair of stirring fifth-place results for Suvanto.
The St. Petersburg, Fla.-based team had struggled for speed in some of the early test and practice sessions on the magnificent 3.41-mile, 20-turn road course, but made steady progress and was in the thick of the battle for pole position during the lone qualifying session on Friday. Suvanto, from Nurmo, Finland, and Pigot, from Orlando, Fla., both spent time at the top of the timing charts and ultimately had to settle for fourth and third on the grid, respectively – with all of the top four contenders separated by a mere 0.089 second.
The start for Race One did not go to plan, with several rivals jumping the green flag and Pigot inadvertently bumping into the rear of Suvanto’s car amid the melee at Turn One. When the dust settled, the pair had slipped to fifth (Suvanto) and seventh (Pigot). Worse, the Finn’s car had sustained substantial damage to its rear wing.
By the end of Lap 1, Pigot had fought his way to fourth, whereupon he continued to charge, passing a fast-starting Juan Acosta for third on Lap 3 and quickly reducing a deficit of almost four seconds to former USF2000 teammate Matthew Brabham. Turning laps on a par with race leader Diego Ferreira, Pigot closed inexorably on Brabham before making the pass on Lap 10. He duly took the checkered flag in second to mark an impressive Pro Mazda debut, while Suvanto drove a masterful race in his damaged car to finish fifth.
Pigot’s fastest race lap was a scant 0.013s slower than race winner Ferreira, which meant he would start second for this afternoon’s Race 2. Suvanto, meanwhile, was banished to the back of the grid due to the fact his car’s electronic timing transponder had been damaged in the first-corner incident, so no official lap times were recorded.
Worse was to come at the start of Race 2 when Pigot’s car was assaulted by two other rivals at the exit of Turn One, ending his day with broken suspension. Incredibly, Suvanto, too, was caught up in the incident. Thankfully, he was able to continue at the back of the field after a pit stop to change the front wing and a punctured tire.
Suvanto rejoined in 15th and last place, then produced a stunning performance to climb all the way to fifth, earning the Quartermaster Hard Charger Award for making up more positions than anyone else during the 12-lap race.
“Highs and lows really,” summarized Team Pelfrey Team Manager Nigel Tuckey. “The good news is we’ve got good cars, we now know that. Unfortunately, the down-side is we weren’t allowed to capitalize on them, but that’s sometimes how it goes and we hope that we get our fair share of good luck in the next few races.”
Team Pelfrey will return to action for the next two rounds of competition on its home track, the streets of St. Petersburg, Fla., in support of the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg on March 23/24.
WHAT THE DRIVERS SAID:
Spencer Pigot (#81 Team Pelfrey/Doug Mockett & Company/Gap Guard/Parathyroid.com/California Scents/OMP) – Race 1, qualified third, finished second; Race 2, started second, finished 16th: “It was a pretty good weekend. I was happy to get a podium in my first Pro Mazda race, and I think we learned a lot this week in Texas and we came a long way. We were a bit behind in terms of how many tests we've done, compared to the other teams, but we showed that we have quite a lot of pace between the two cars so I feel confident we can put that to good use in St. Pete.”
Petri Suvanto (#82 Team Pelfrey/www.GapGuard.com) – Race 1, qualified fourth, finished fifth; Race 2, started 14th, finished fourth: “Considering all the obstacles we had yesterday and today, I’m very happy with the weekend. In terms of results, it’s not exactly the start to the season we wanted but it’s only the first weekend. We’ve got the speed so I’m really excited to get the season going and get more experience with these Cooper tires and working with this re-structured team. The new engineers and the whole team have done a really good job to adapt to this situation and we’re really coming along great.”
ABOUT TEAM PELFREY:
Dale Pelfrey’s race team, based in the St. Petersburg, Fla., area, is built upon the same principles he used 35 years ago when establishing his business career – hire the best, acquire the best and expect the best in order to achieve the most. After fielding cars in the IZOD IndyCar Series from 1998 until 2000, Team Pelfrey was reformed in 2011, winning on its Pro Mazda debut and going on to earn the Team Championship as well as second and third in the drivers’ title-chase with Connor De Phillippi and Nick Andries. Team Pelfrey went one better in 2012, guiding Jack Hawksworth to the Drivers’ Championship and earning a second successive Team Championship.