Jones speeds to top three finish on dazzling Indianapolis 500 debut

  • Dubai-born Brit stuns seasoned observers on stellar Indy 500 bow
  • Dale Coyne Racing rookie takes fight to more experienced rivals
  • 22-year-old celebrates best result to-date at pinnacle of US racing


Ed Jones vied for victory during the course of a scene-stealing performance on his Indianapolis 500 debut last Sunday (28 May), as the talented Dubai, UAE-born ace took the fight to some of the sport’s greatest drivers en route to his maiden Verizon IndyCar Series top three finish.
 
Jones lined up 11th amongst the 33 high-calibre protagonists for his first crack at one of motorsport’s most legendary and fiercely-disputed races in its 101st year – an event so steeped in history, tradition and folklore that it has earned the sobriquet ‘The Greatest Spectacle in Racing’.
 
Unexpectedly thrust into the role of de facto team leader at Dale Coyne Racing in the wake of team-mate Sébastien Bourdais’ pelvis and hip injuries, the reigning Indy Lights Champion wound up a confidence-boosting second-quickest at the conclusion of the eight practice sessions. Completing no fewer than 334 laps of the 2.5-mile oval behind the wheel of his 720bhp Dallara-Honda single-seater, he reached a dizzying top speed of 233.008mph in the process.
 
An electric atmosphere enveloped the iconic Indianapolis Motor Speedway on race day, but following a promising start to gain some early ground, Jones picked up rear wing damage from the dramatic accident just ahead of him that removed pole-sitter Scott Dixon and Jay Howard from contention on lap 53.
 
Forced into making an unscheduled extra pit-stop for repairs when the action resumed after a red flag, the delay dropped the 22-year-old Brit to the tail of the field down in 28th place, but he dug deep and a fast and determined effort saw the #19 car climb consistently up the order and settle solidly back into the leading pack.
 
A well-timed pit-stop just before a full-course caution period in the closing stages of the 200-lap contest promoted Jones right to the sharp end, and he belied his comparative lack of experience and rookie status by duelling wheel-to-wheel with seasoned adversaries Hélio Castroneves and Takuma Sato. Indeed, the former – a three-time winner at the Brickyard – was effusive in his praise for his young rival once the chequered flag had fallen as he hailed a ‘very good’ and ‘very smart’ drive.
 
The erstwhile European F3 Open Champion was not done yet, however, as he got the better of countryman Max Chilton in the battle for third with five laps left to run. Remaining there to the end, he secured his finest IndyCar finish to-date and DCR’s best result at Indy – a welcome tonic for the team in Bourdais’ absence and a thoroughly well-deserved reward for Jones following a rough recent run.
 
His standout performance also vaulted the Williams-Harfield Sports Group protégé back up to ninth in the drivers’ classification – just five points shy of the top five – ahead of the next outing on the 2017 IndyCar calendar, the Detroit Grand Prix double-header at Belle Isle Park this coming weekend (3/4 June).
 
“It was a great race for us,” Jones enthused. “It was also the longest race I’ve ever been in, with so many ups-and-downs. We had a solid start, but when Dixon had his crash, I ran over some debris and it damaged the floor and rear wing. We had to change the wing, which sent me to the back of the field and then we had to claw our way up again. It’s so easy to put a foot wrong, and there were a few times when I genuinely thought I was heading for the wall but thanks to the Dale Coyne Racing team for putting a great car underneath me all month.
 
“We were really strong in traffic and kept pushing on and making up positions. We got some luck back with the last yellow as we pitted right before it, but then I put a big hole in my front wing, which created a lot of drag. That meant I was really good in the corners catching other cars, but as soon as we got to the straight sections I couldn’t tow up to them – we just lacked that top speed for the last 40 laps and it was very hard for me to defend or attack.
 
“Over the final 20 laps or so, the racing got much more intense, with people taking a lot more risks. It was pretty crazy out there, but I really enjoyed it. It was just frustrating that we couldn’t get the win because we were really close to it and without the damage, we had the car to do so. When you have an opportunity like that, you want to grab it but congratulations to Taku and Hélio. We did everything we could, and to come away with third place as a rookie is an amazing result.”
 
“We’re excited by the job Ed’s been doing this year,” added team owner Coyne. “He really performed well at Indianapolis. He gave us our best qualifying in 11th and our best finish in third, and I think having all the yellows and the red flag was good for him because it’s the longest race he’s ever been in and that allows you time for your heart rate to come down and to think about what’s going on. The season is only a third over and whilst it kind of feels like it’s culminated here, there is plenty more still to come.”

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Jones secures fourth row start for maiden Indy 500

  • Dale Coyne Racing rookie set to line up 11th for first Indianapolis 500
  • 22-year-old outpaces three former winners of iconic American race
  • Dubai-born Brit continues to turn heads at pinnacle of US motorsport
     

Ed Jones will line up an impressive 11th on the grid for his first Indianapolis 500 this weekend (28 May), after averaging an eye-watering 230.578mph around the legendary ‘Brickyard’ oval during qualifying for ‘The Greatest Spectacle in Racing’.
 
As the reigning Indy Lights Champion, Jones has made a strong start to his maiden Verizon IndyCar Series campaign this year with Dale Coyne Racing, tallying a brace of top ten finishes from the first five outings behind the wheel of his 720bhp Dallara-Honda single-seater to sit 13th in the standings arriving at Indianapolis.
 
After successfully completing the mandatory rookie orientation programme, the talented Dubai, UAE-born ace went on to lap the 2.5-mile superspeedway more than 200 times over the course of five days of practice. In evidence of his swift progress, he surpassed the 230mph mark on ‘Fast Friday’ to place an excellent ninth in the classification – ahead of some very big names indeed.
 
Saturday qualifying was delayed for five hours by heavy rain, but when the action eventually got underway, Jones belied his comparative lack of experience and unfavourable early slot in the running order to lap tenth-quickest, missing out on the ‘Fast Nine’ shoot-out by the slender margin of just 0.141s as he featured up towards the sharp end throughout.
 
The following day, the 22-year-old Brit was accordingly the final driver to take to the track in Group 1 qualifying to determine the grid positions from tenth down to 33rd, with all previous lap times erased. With only a single four-lap attempt permitted, the pressure was on but Jones rose to the challenge admirably, circulating consistently above 230mph in what was the fastest Indianapolis 500 qualifying session for more than two decades and the third-fastest in history.
 
The Williams-Harfield Sports Group protégé will duly start the world’s largest single-day sporting event from the middle of the fourth row – the second quickest-rookie behind two-time Formula 1 World Champion Fernando Alonso and ahead of three of the seven former winners in the fray in what has been billed as the toughest field in living memory.
 
Amongst the big-hitters that Jones outpaced were Team Penske powerhouse trio Juan-Pablo Montoya, Hélio Castroneves and current IndyCar championship leader Simon Pagenaud. He similarly outqualified no fewer than six other race-winners in the fiercely-disputed open-wheel series.
 
In the wake of team-mate Sébastien Bourdais’ high-speed accident that has left the Frenchman with multiple fractures to his pelvis and hip, it was a timely tonic for the DCR crew, and erstwhile European F3 Open Champion Jones is now fired-up to prove his potential once again in the 101st edition of the iconic Indianapolis 500 – in front of an anticipated crowd of more than 250,000.
 
“Indianapolis Motor Speedway is the most famous racetrack in the world and the Indy 500 is the most famous race in the world, and it’s amazing to be here,” he enthused. “I raced here last year in Indy Lights, so I came in with a bit of prior experience around the track but it’s obviously a lot more extreme when you’re going faster and it’s a place you’ve got to treat with so much respect, because you can end up paying a big price for a small mistake.
 
“I spent the practice week getting comfortable and working on running closely in traffic. The first two days were very solid and I learned a tremendous amount, and whilst the hot and windy conditions later on perhaps hampered preparations a bit, we went into the weekend knowing we had good pace.
 
“Oval qualifying is always nerve-wracking – particularly my first one for the Indy 500 – so having a five-hour rain delay made it a million times worse! You’re going out there on a different day in different conditions, meaning you don’t know what to expect and have to just keep it flat and hope for the best. The car was right on the knife-edge, and it was a real thrill – I enjoyed every moment.
 
“I really wanted to be in the Fast Nine, but maybe we didn’t get the set-up quite right and that left us with it all to do again on Sunday. In the morning practice session, we rolled out, did four laps and said, ‘let’s park it’ because we had the perfect car, but then in the afternoon it was quite loose. I had to make several corrections, but nonetheless it was a good run and a great job by the guys and I think I got everything out of it that I could.
 
“It was a tough day on Saturday with Seb’s massive crash and all my thoughts are with him for a speedy recovery, but our team spirit is so strong and I’m proud to be representing DCR in the Indianapolis 500. Thanks to Dale and all the engineers. Hopefully we can take it further forward in the race.”

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Jones' impressive raw pace goes unrewarded in IndyCar GP

  • Rapid IndyCar rookie continues to showcase palpable potential
  • Dale Coyne Racing ace frustrated by ill-fortune at Indianapolis
  • Dubai-born Brit now revving up for the biggest race of the year
     

Ed Jones produced a scintillating turn-of-speed in last weekend’s IndyCar Grand Prix, but his chances of adding a third top ten finish to his tally in what has been an impressive Verizon IndyCar Series rookie campaign to-date were undone by misfortune in Indiana.
 
The IndyCar Grand Prix traditionally kick-starts IndyCar’s celebrated ‘Month of May’, and the iconic Indianapolis Motor Speedway’s 2.439-mile, 14-turn road course had been a happy hunting-ground for Jones in the past.
 
The talented Dubai, UAE-born ace claimed no fewer than three pole positions there in Indy Lights and reached the top step of the rostrum en route to the drivers’ crown in the fiercely-disputed Mazda Road to Indy feeder series last year. He returned with his sights solidly set on maintaining his progression at the pinnacle of US open-wheel competition.
 
After struggling throughout practice – completing fewer laps than any of his rivals and uncharacteristically bringing up the rear of the timesheets amongst the 22 high-calibre contenders – Jones and Dale Coyne Racing dug deep to engineer a remarkable turnaround in qualifying.
 
Narrowly missing out on advancing to the second part of the session, the 22-year-old Brit lined up 13th on the grid for the 85-lap IndyCar Grand Prix. His challenge, however, was almost immediately compromised when – following a bright start that saw him gain some early ground – he found himself forced to take to the grass to avoid a spinning Tony Kanaan, rejoining the fray all the way down in 20th position.
 
Having grittily battled back up to 13th, a refuelling issue during Jones’ first pit visit caused a further delay and prompted an unscheduled extra stop, demoting him to a lonely 19th place. He would remain there to the chequered flag, as a rare caution-free race afforded him scant opportunity to play catch-up. The former European F3 Open Champion posted the fastest lap at one stage behind the wheel of his 720bhp Dallara-Honda single-seater, ending up third-quickest overall in evidence of what might have been.
 
With no time to rest, Jones and DCR are already hard at work preparing for the 101st edition of the legendary Indianapolis 500 – the culmination of the ‘Month of May’ – with two days of qualifying scheduled for 20/21 May followed by ‘The Greatest Spectacle in Racing’ itself a week later on 28 May.
 
“The Indianapolis road course has been a good track for me in the past” reflected the Williams-Harfield Sports Group protégé. “It’s quite a European-style circuit, which I think is one of the reasons why I feel so comfortable there. We went into the weekend believing it would probably be one of our best chances to get a good result so far this year, but in practice we had a few problems that made it really difficult to learn and progress.
 
“We made some big changes heading into qualifying and moved nearer to my team-mate’s set-up. That allowed us to take a big jump and I ended up really close to the ‘Fast 12’, missing out by less than half-a-tenth-of-a-second. It was obviously frustrating not to go through to the next round, but still massive to qualify where we did given where we had been in practice – much better than we had feared.
 
“Unfortunately, it was then a difficult race. At the start we moved up a little bit, but going into Turn Seven, Kanaan spun in front of me and I had to avoid him – I thought he was going to take me out properly! I had to go onto the grass, and that dropped me to the rear of the field.
 
“After that, we were coming through and our pace was pretty good, but then at the first pit-stop we didn't get all the fuel into the car, costing us a lot of time and messing up the whole race as it sent us to the back again. That was a real shame, as we set the third-best lap so we were clearly quick, and I think we would have probably finished inside the top ten if we’d had a clean run.”

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Jones fights to the finish on IndyCar oval debut

  • IndyCar rookie tames oval racing challenge under the Arizona lights
  • Dubai-based Brit maintains impressive 100 per cent finishing record
  • Dale Coyne Racing ace continues to gain experience in the top flight


Ed Jones successfully navigated the various perils and pitfalls of his first oval race in the fiercely-disputed Verizon IndyCar Series at Phoenix International Raceway last weekend, as the talented young Dubai, UAE-based ace took the chequered flag just outside the top ten with Dale Coyne Racing.
 
Ovals are a unique challenge in North American motorsport and call for a completely different mindset to traditional road courses and street circuits, but Jones had already proved his proficiency and his abilities as a quick learner en route to the coveted Indy Lights crown in 2016, including a close second-place finish at Phoenix along the way.
 
The 22-year-old Brit returned to the short Arizona oval buoyed by a productive test there earlier this season – during which he had grasped the opportunity to gain as much experience as possible – albeit anticipating a demanding weekend, with only a single practice session to prepare for qualifying, which took place in cool and windy conditions.
 
With competitors required to punch in a brace of fast laps straight out-of-the-box, the pressure was on but Jones rose to the occasion to secure 16th spot on the starting grid amongst the 21 high-calibre protagonists, outpacing a quintet of more established rivals behind the wheel of his 720bhp Dallara-Honda single-seater – at an average speed of an eye-watering 190.029mph.
 
In the following day’s 250-lap Phoenix Grand Prix held under the Arizona floodlights – the first of six oval outings on the 2017 IndyCar schedule – the former European F3 Open Champion artfully steered clear of an early mêlée that removed a number of cars from the reckoning, before settling into 14th position.
 
Making further progress over the second half of the race by dint of carefully staying out of trouble on a night when several more seasoned adversaries erred, Jones took advantage of rapid pit-stops by his DCR crew to cross the finish line in 11th place, in so doing consolidating his top ten standing in the drivers’ classification at the pinnacle of US open-wheel competition.
 
Next up for the series’ star rookie is the celebrated ‘Month of May’, comprising the IndyCar Grand Prix in two weeks’ time followed by the 101st edition of the legendary Indianapolis 500 a fortnight later.
 
“I felt pretty comfortable at Phoenix, having done well there last year in Indy Lights and following the test a couple of months ago,” revealed Jones, who is managed by Williams-Harfield Sports Group. “It’s probably one of the trickiest ovals, I’d say, just because of its characteristics and we knew it would likely be a tough weekend, but I was looking forward to it.
 
“The car was pretty good in qualifying. The conditions were very different to how they had been in practice, and it was so much cooler that I didn’t feel fully confident on my first lap and had a bit too much understeer, but otherwise it was a decent effort.
 
“I was optimistic about being able to move forward in the race, but it transpired to be quite difficult. I struggled a lot in traffic – running in the pack was definitely the hardest part – but I managed to avoid all the incidents that we could so easily have got caught up in and it was good to finish only just outside the top ten. Being my first oval race and first night race in an IndyCar, there was plenty to learn but I gained a lot of experience, which is important at this stage, and I'm already excited for the next one.”

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Long day at the office for Jones in Alabama

  • Dubai-based Brit impresses again with best qualifying to-date
  • Opening lap misfortune scuppers hopes of top ten hat-trick
  • Dale Coyne Racing ace looking forward to oval IndyCar bow


Ed Jones found his efforts to score a third consecutive top ten result in his maiden Verizon IndyCar Series campaign undone by ill-fortune in Sunday’s Grand Prix of Alabama, but the reigning Indy Lights Champion remains upbeat – and a firm top ten contender – ahead of the next outing on the schedule this coming weekend.
 
Having shown well in pre-event testing around Barber Motorsports Park’s picturesque 17-turn road course – lapping less than two hundredths-of-a-second adrift of ultra-experienced, championship-leading Dale Coyne Racing team-mate Sébastien Bourdais – Jones headed to the demanding Deep South circuit in optimistic mood.
 
The talented Dubai, UAE-based ace had clinched a brace of pole positions and victory in Alabama en route to the coveted Indy Lights crown in 2016, and – buoyed by having become the first IndyCar rookie to tally two back-to-back top ten finishes straight off the bat since Nigel Mansell in 1993 – he returned with his sights solidly set on completing the hat-trick.
 
Despite struggling for balance during free practice, Jones dug deep to progress through to the ‘Fast 12’ for the first time in qualifying, narrowly pipping Barber lap record-holder Bourdais to 11th spot on the starting grid amongst the 21 high-calibre contenders.
 
The 22-year-old Brit’s race, however, was immediately compromised when a piece of flying debris from a rival’s car struck the front wing of his 720bhp Dallara-Honda single-seater, sending him unexpectedly pit-bound for a replacement at the end of the opening lap. The delay dropped him to the tail of the order – and consigned him to a very long afternoon indeed.
 
Around a circuit at which overtaking is famously difficult, that represented a significant mountain to climb and with overnight rain making for distinctly different track conditions to-boot, Jones was unable to replicate his impressive qualifying form.
 
The former European F3 Open Champion valiantly plugged away to regain 16th position by the chequered flag, and whilst that was far from the result he had been aiming for, it nonetheless preserved his top ten championship standing at the pinnacle of US open-wheel competition.
 
With no time to waste, the 2017 IndyCar season now speeds swiftly on to the 1.022-mile Phoenix Raceway on 29 April. As he prepares to make his first oval appearance in the fiercely-disputed series, Jones is eager to rapidly re-establish his burgeoning momentum.
 
“We had more knowledge going into Barber than at the first two races following the test, but still we expected it to be tough,” reflected the Williams-Harfield Sports Group protégé. “It’s one of the hardest circuits on the calendar both physically and technically; there are plenty of long corners that call for maximum commitment – you really need to have the car underneath you round there.
 
“That said, I had done well at Barber in the past, and my Indy Lights experience gave me the confidence to push consistently towards the limit. It was a difficult first day after a few changes that we made for the afternoon session failed to pay off, but the team and myself came together and worked hard overnight to try to improve the situation, and Saturday went much better.
 
“We made a little bit more of a jump for qualifying and I had a really good car throughout the session; getting through to the ‘Fast 12’ was our target, and it was very satisfying to accomplish it. Unfortunately, it was then a frustrating start to the race. I caught some debris that wasn’t really avoidable, which put us to the back of the field. After that, I didn't quite have the pace so I think we would have struggled even if we were up there from the beginning.
 
“It was a tough day but, again, I learned a lot and I feel we’ll be better for the next one. Phoenix is the first oval of the year, so it will be interesting to see how we get on...”

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