Photo: Mazda Motorsport
Imagine for a moment that you are Spencer Pigot. The 2018 IMSA season has been one piece of bad luck after another, but there have been moments of brilliance. The Mazda RT-24 prototype you’re sitting in, entered by Mazda Team Joest. You qualified in third place, but the ten hour endurance race has worn on both driver and car alike.
Car-to-car contact caused the #55 Mazda to pit for a nose and tail change, which put them a lap down early on. The team of Pigot, Jonathan Bomarito, and Marino Franchitti were able to fight back to the lead lap around hour seven. While they were struggling, their #77 teammate spent the whole race at or near the front of the run.
As they entered the final lap, two Cadillac-powered prototypes sat ahead of the Mazda pair in third and fourth. The leading car was tight on fuel, and nobody was sure if they would make it or not. As it turns out, they didn’t.
The #10 Cadillac made the pass for the lead going into the 10a and 10b complex, and the #5 Cadillac hadn’t saved enough fuel, causing driver Filipe Albuquerque to run out of gas on his way up the hill. He then had to coast to the finish through turn 11 and down the hill. The Mazdas, some five seconds back, threw some hitch in their giddy-up to make up that gap and complete the pass before they reached the finish line.
The #77 made the pass efficiently, and was up into second with no issues. The #55, however, got one last piece of bad luck before the race was over. While the Cadillac was dead-stick going down the hill, it was getting passed at that very moment by a lower-classed GT car, which forced Pigot to make a last-second decision to pass both cars around the outside.
GIF: Mazda Motorsport ((I got access to the onboard footage of that heroic bit of driving from Mazda directly. Unfortunately, their footage did not include any audio, so I turned it into a .gif for all of us to enjoy on repeat.)
That move is generally considered impossible at that point in the track, because of the risk it requires. Nine times out of ten, you aren’t going to get your car through that corner and you’ll run wide, across the curb at the bottom of the hill, through the grass, and smack into the wall. I’ve done it a thousand times in Forza, trust me.
Pigot, using every fiber of his ability—and likely a whole lot of luck too—managed to pass the Cadillac and the GT car, slam the curb, shoot across the grass, and come just shy of kissing the wall to take his podium position. In order to keep that position, he kept the throttle down until he was clear of the finish line, taking a very bumpy path to get there.
Click play on the video below to see the race call action from one minute remaining to the checkered flag. You’ll notice that the commentators don’t even so much as mention the pass for the lead, let alone Pigot’s stunning last-ditch pass. It was truly my favorite pass of the season, just seconds before the season ended. Cutting, calculated, and perfectly executed, this is racing at its finest.
The 2018 IMSA season was so damn good.