I am here at the Autosport International Show with Barry Pigot, Spencer Pigot’s dad, Spencer will drive in the Verizon IndyCar Series full-time in 2018 with Ed Carpenter Racing.
How did the drive with Ed Carpenter Racing come about?
Well, Spencer won the Indy Lights championship in 2015 and because of that he got a million dollars from the Mazda Road to Indy scholarship and that million dollars got us three races with Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing.
We did St Petersburg, we did the Indy 500 and the Indy GP and then after that we got sponsorship for six races with Ed Carpenter and that went well so the following year which was 2017, we did the full season of road and street courses with Ed Carpenter Racing which we had to find funding for, and then obviously the team were impressed so for 2018, they signed him full-time all the races, full-time contract and we don’t have to bring any money, he’s actually getting paid, that’s the ultimate goal for an IndyCar driver obviously is to get there, stay there, get paid and eventually the next step is to establish himself and he has the opportunity to do that.
You have been in a unique situation where you haven’t had to rely on family money to allow Spencer to go racing, can you tell me a bit about that?
Yes, we managed to get him through karting just about but we as a family certainly don’t have the money to go racing, I wish we did because it takes three seconds to write a check. To raise the funding yourself, it takes considerably longer then that. So, there were three ways that we did it. But what I should say first is that after the last race of 2017, Sonoma, Spencer’s career has cost $5.8 million dollars and that’s with a guy who has won four scholarships, so where did that 5.8 million come from?
Three different sources, 40% of it came from the investment company we sent up in 2009, 30% of it came from the Mazda Road to Indy scholarship, $2 million dollars in that and then 30% came from just straight sponsorship.
Now, the investment side of it is a company we set up P1 Management LLC and there are 400 shares in this company, and we set 100 up for sale and Spencer keeps the rest. Each share was $25,000 a share so in total 2.5 million we sold them all out plus a few more. We actually sold a little bit more than 25% probably more like 28% and then what happens is once income starts to come into this company and it’s from any source that he makes money as a professional racing driver as long as he is driving a racing car.
It’s driver fees, share of prize money, coaching fees, personal endorsements, everything goes into this company, 25 percent of that revenue goes to the investment pool and it gets divided up and pro-rated investments so they get a return on their money.
You have to pick the kind of people you sell and market this to. It’s obviously an incredibly risky investment for most of our investors, but we have some guys who bought just one share and we have some guys who bought so you know I don’t think any of them expected to get a return, they were hoping for one but it is a very risky investment the chasing of making it in this sport to the top level are pretty slim.
Anyway, it’s going to pay off for our investors because Spencer is getting paid this year and that will go back to them. But what I found out is when you are talking to but obviously you got approach these guys who have been successful in life and some net worth and if you start asking them for money to go racing you know it looks like charity, but the moment you mention to them investment their eyes widen and their whole-body language changes not because they think oh I am going to make money but because they think well that is an interesting concept, what’s he talking about?
So, they want to know more and what they do is, these guys have obviously got the investment portfolio. The have one end of this portfolio they have very safe stocks, very secure stocks, in the middle they have some average risk so they just lump it into the high-risk stock area and that is how they justify it, they want to invest in it especially high risk that don’t pay off, so they are used to that. And least if it all collapses at least they have the tax write off.
But I don’t think, I have probably had one person whose turned me down virtually when I have pitched so it’s been the most successful form of funding, but a number of drivers have done this so I have not re-invented the wheel.
Scott Dixon, that’s how he financed his early career, in fact he tried to buy his investors out a few years ago and they said no no we are doing very well thank you. Justin Wilson did it.
Rubens Barrichello apparently the guy, I heard a story, there is a guy in Brazil who still gets a check every month because he invested in Barrichello, so it’s a system that works.
In the Mazda Road to Indy anyway because it’s safe to say the scholarships are worth millions so if you win a championship you have 80 percent for the next year to move up to the next category.
It’s $300,000 for USF2000, $800,000 for Indy Lights etc, and that’s 85 percent of the budget.
We are very happy to be with Ed Carpenter, it’s a great team, but don’t forget you’re never going to get a team that are going to say, we’ve been watching in Indy Lights, we’re going to sign you on a three-year contract we are going to pay you.
You’ve not only got to have the money to get to IndyCar, you’ve also got to have the money to stay there for a year or two to prove yourself and then hopefully you’ll end up like Spencer. The system works, because we are living proof of it.
If anyone thinks they can’t make it because they don’t have family money, well then, I can certainly tell them it can be done. You’re right, the kids got to be successful and win races and championships.
Has Spencer had a chance to drive the new car yet?
Yes, he has, Ed Carpenter Racing got picked along with Team Penske to do pre-season testing with the new aero kit so he has had four or five days in the car prior to the end of the year which has been a great help because he has never had the luxury of that before.
Has he enjoyed it?
Yes, having this new car I think will suit his driving style. There’s a lot less down-force, the car moves around a lot more. The rear end gets the wheels spinning a lot more, the rear end moving around corners a lot more, you know, he likes that sort of thing, he is very good with the rear end.
He likes a planted front end and the handling of the steering. The braking distances are a lot longer because number 1 you are going a lot faster, with the reduced down-force the terminal velocity is quiet a lot higher and then when you hit the brakes you don’t have the down-force in play there operate the brakes like you did in the old car.
I think overall the times on some tracks will be similar, they may even be quicker, we’ve got long straights like Road America.
Are there any tracks that either yourself or Spencer are most looking forward to apart from Indy?
Well I mean he likes all of them of course, but if he has a favourite I think St Petersburg, we have been very successful there, we have won eight or nine races over the years in the junior formulas and Barber, Barber Motorsports Park, Road America.
There are some fabulous old school road courses in the United States, that are real drivers tracks where you can’t make mistakes, you don’t have mile long run off areas like you do with modern Formula One tracks.
There is a lot of British interest in IndyCar which has been great for British motorsport.
We are getting quiet a few guys coming over. Max Chilton of course. Ed Jones recently, and hopefully we will have more. You know, I think if you want to make a living in open wheel racing I think most drivers when they came into this sport they start in karting obviously, their goal is open wheel.
If that doesn’t work out then the career ends in open wheel we’ll look at sports cars but generally I think most of them want to be open wheel racing drivers, so we’ve got two choices, Formula One or IndyCar. Now Formula One is almost impossible, in my opinion there are two ways of getting into Formula One.
Number one, you have a dad like Lance Stroll’s or you have this amazing talent that comes along once every 5-10 years like Max Verstappen or in the past like Ayrton Senna style talent.
So, I think if they are not in those two categories they are never going to get into Formula One, but you can make a living and a career in IndyCar, it’s a lot easier. It’s not easy but it is easier.
We are here with Mazda Road to Indy and obviously Spencer is racing with the works Mazda team at the Dayton 24 Hours.
Is he looking forward to it?
Oh yes, he has been doing that for a couple of years. It’s the prototype car, back to Mazda’s team which this year is very exciting because it is being run by Team Jost who won countless 24 Hours of LeMans outright wins, I think 15 or 16 against Porsche and Audi so I think they know what they are doing.
He has got great team mates, we’ve got Oliver Jarvis, Harry Ticknell, Jonathan Barmarito and Rennie Reist is also on board, the DTM champion so a great team, great team mates and is going to be doing four of those races, obviously a lot of them conflict with his IndyCar programme.
He is going to be doing the three main long-distance races, the Daytona 24 Hours, Sebring 12 Hours and the Petit LeMans and when he is off he will also be doing the spring race at Mid-Ohio as Harry Ticknell is racing in the WEC in Europe so can’t make that race. So, he is going to be a really busy boy this year.