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IndyCar Laguna Seca

Ilott: Front row vindicates renewing with Juncos Hollinger

Callum Ilott, who will start tomorrow’s IndyCar race at Laguna Seca from second on the grid, said his early commitment to Juncos Hollinger Racing for 2023 was because he had faith in the team.

Callum Ilott, Juncos Hollinger Racing Chevrolet

Despite 2022 being such a fluid silly season, with an unexpected number of seats available in race-winning teams, Juncos Hollinger and former Formula 2 runner-up Ilott inked a new deal as early as July and since then the team has committed to running a second car for next year.

Motorsport.com asked Ilott if ignoring interest from other teams and committing early to Juncos Hollinger – which is running the full IndyCar schedule for the first time this year – had now been vindicated by his front-row start at Laguna Seca, Ilott said that it had, and that he was eager to keep a good name for himself.

“That decision was made independently of the results now or at the time,” he said. “It was made with the work ethic behind. Yes, the world is moving very quickly in motorsports, and this year has been a shock for quite a few in this silly season. I had some discussions, but that was quite late on really.

“Yeah, it just shows that we can do it in the right places. I've always said at the beginning, I think when the car is in a good window we can compete, and this is one of those weekends where we got it in a good window and it was there. But it's a tough championship, and the experience is what counts.

“Like I said, I want a long career in this. I don't want to burn any bridges by being a dick. You know, money is one thing. It comes when you're in this sport a long time. You're comfortable anyway. I'm not trying to get too much from any situation in that sense.

“I'm taking my time. Yes, you could argue that some situations maybe would have boosted me a bit quicker if it was to appeal to F1 teams. Again, that kind of thing – maybe jumping to another team for probably an easier start to 2023 – may have been better for that. But like I said, I want a long career, and I think doing it this way – whether it's for '24, '25, '26, getting recognized by other teams… I'm sure if they're looking now, they'll definitely look in later years.”

Ilott joked that given the difference between himself and record pole-winner today Will Power, that “If I didn't have lunch maybe I would have taken it away!”

He went on: “Honestly, these guys working so hard throughout the year, we knew sometimes we’ve got the pace, but there's so much more to this series than just having a good car. You've got to put it all together, and to do a day like this where you almost get it, almost get it, I think it's great to finish off the season like this and take a front row.”

Ilott, driving for the only single-car team in the IndyCar paddock, explained what he and Juncos Hollinger have been up against in 2022.

“Yeah, it shows what we can do with what we have, in a certain way,” he remarked. “I mean, we started the season with two and a half sets of dampers and one of them is for ovals. We finished with, I think, three and a half, and they're not much different to the first one! We just bought another version of the first set and adapted them a little bit.

“This is what happens when you work with what you've got and you optimize it. Our terms of development this year have been what we had to start with, and again, just fine-tuning it. Whether it's me and the driving and the experience, we've just been chipping away and trying to do a good job with that. And it's been tough, especially with no teammate to have anything to use very well or learn from. To get to this stage and have a result like this, I think they're all super chuffed, and yeah, amazing job.

“At the end of the day even if it's just one lap at the end, it's great to do it, finish it like this, and I think gives us so much more motivation in the off-season when they get some time to really digest everything and work on it.”

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