How “playing it on the safe side” helped Ilott to fifth at St. Pete

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By Connor Bacon

Juncos Hollinger driver Callum Ilott has said he used the tactic of “playing it on the safe side” to

claim fifth place at the opening round of the IndyCar season at St. Petersburg.

After putting in some giant killing performances last season expectations were a little higher for Ilott and the team as they are now in their sophomore year in the series.

And while it didn’t get off to the best of starts on Saturday with the Brit qualifying down in 22nd, a chaotic race allowed him to manage his way to a brilliant top five result.

“Saturday was not our day,” said Ilott when it was mentioned to him the difference between qualifying and the race. “We improved throughout the weekend and managed to put down a good race car.”

With the tricky nature of St. Pete exaggerated by new tarmac at parts of the circuit, Ilott noted the importance of staying out of trouble when others were “overdoing it” to climb through the field.

“I came from a long way back and honestly just kept it cool. I lost out a little bit because I was playing it on the safe side, but those restarts were so slippery.

“So, we lost a couple of places but when people were overdoing it that’s when I was able to capitalise.”

He added: “I just kept it tight and again I was just trying to keep it calm. It’s the first race of the season, so a lot of people will be trying to go forwards, but with the tail wind, the new tarmac and especially with the green [alternate] tyres, there was a lot of pick up and the track was quite dirty.

“Sometimes you don’t want to play it safe, but it was a good day to do that.”

Ilott was happy that after what was one of the teams most difficult weekends last year, they were able to claim a strong result heading into the second race at Texas, which provides a completely different set of challenges to St. Pete.

“This was one of our weakest weekends last year,” Ilott said. “So, being able to come through with a top five is not what I expected but I think that sets a good start for the year.”

Photo: Penske Entertainment | Joe Skibinski