After Stellar Season Start Ilott Stumbles

After a great start to the season with two top 10 finishes, IndyCar’s Callum Ilott was hoping to continue this momentum in Long Beach, but his time on track wasn’t as expected.

Written by Kristina Agresta

April 16, 2023

Juncos Hollinger Racing’s Callum Ilott had a fantastic start to his second full season with the team. Though he only qualified 22nd at St. Petersburg, the carnage of the race and his ability to navigate a chaotic race led to Ilott finishing P5, a career and team best. JHR then continued these stellar results at the PPG 375 with Ilott finishing P9, a career-best oval finish. 

Callum Ilott on track at the Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach (Photo Credit: Leila Nunez)

 

Heading into the Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach weekend, expectations were high for the British driver, with some even predicting he would achieve his first IndyCar podium during the weekend. In a Friday interview with Along the Racing Line, Ilott said his target for the season originally was consistent top tens, but after seeing the team’s pace potential he believes that when the car is in a good place they can fight for wins. 

“I want to firstly get on the podium. I think we can fight for wins in the right situation.” – Callum Ilott to ATRL on his new target for this season

His performance in the first practice was decent as he finished in 8th, but things turned around in Practice 2. On Friday, one of the raised bits of curb at Turn 5 was damaged during IMSA Practice and was removed from the track for the first NTT IndyCar practice. The curb was then reinstalled for IndyCar’s second practice the next day, but the drivers and teams were not notified of the change. Four minutes into the session, Ilott headed into turn 5, hitting the apex as he did in the first practice but was launched into the opposite-side tire wall which ended his session.

The driver later took to social media to call out the issue, tweeting, “@indycar @GPLongBeach i expect an explanation later today. Preferably before the session next time. Saves everyone from broken wrists and tens of thousands in damage.” Ilott also added images that showed the difference between the curb on Friday and Saturday.

JHR were hoping for solid results during qualifying for Ilott, but he couldn’t manage to get out of Q1, qualifying in P22. In a statement from the team, Ilott said, “Not having any experience of the greens (tire) meant we went into qualifying a bit blind and the car just wasn’t in the right window.”

Ilott’s weekend continued its downward trajectory on race day when he started the race in P22 and clipped the wall hard on lap 5, ending up with a front right puncture that pushed him down a lap on the pace. During the restart on lap 22, Ilott came out in front of his teammate, and the rest of the pack, causing a bit of a stack up, but didn’t have any stand out moments from there. Ilott finished his long weekend in Long Beach in P19. 

Canapino fans were quick to take to social media to voice their frustration over the strategy call that led to Ilott coming out in front of his teammate. Many Argentinian fans began to send death threats to the British driver and his family due to the situation. His girlfriend Caterina Masetti Zannini tweeting, “I’d like to remember to the new Indycar fans that Callum has done an amazing work for a whole year alone to help the team being where it is right now. This unnecessary hate (for a strategy call) gets me so mad. Please, put your emotions on a side and use your brain.” 

Team owner Ricardo Juncos took to the team’s socials regarding the incident and backlash after the race, stating “I know there are a lot of comments online that are not good, because it’s pretty unfair what’s happening with Callum and the way everyone is treating him, even some journalists…As the team owner I want to clarify that if there is anyone that helps the team in every way, it is Callum Ilott. I chose him as our driver a year and a half ago, he represents the Argentinian people, he is pushing for Indycar to race in Argentina, and he always talks really highly about Agustin Canapino, and they get along really well, even after the race…It wasn’t anyone’s fault, especially not Callum Ilott’s.”. Canapino also made a public statement regarding the situation, stating Ilott helps him a lot on the team and it was simply a communication error. The team now looks ahead to Barber, where they hope to leave this less than ideal weekend behind.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Kristina developed her love of motorsport through years watching Top Gear with her dad every night. She specializes in Formula One and IndyCar. Her favorite teams include Williams, Mercedes, Juncos Hollinger Racing and ART Grand Prix. Outside of motorsport Kristina works as the Business Manager of Beach Media. You can find her on Twitter as @agrestaP1.

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