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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Jones praised for 'phenomenal' top six Long Beach charge

  • IndyCar rookie continues to turn heads at pinnacle of the sport
  • Dubai-based Brit tallies second consecutive top ten finish
  • 22-year-old DCR ace advances to seventh in championship table


Ed Jones demonstrated last weekend that his stellar Verizon IndyCar Series debut at St. Petersburg had been no flash in the pan, with a charge through the field to finish sixth in Long Beach earning the talented young Dubai, UAE-based ace praise for a ‘phenomenal’ performance.
 
Having impressed onlookers with a top ten finish first time out as the only rookie in the fiercely-disputed, 21-strong IndyCar field, Jones headed to the legendary Grand Prix of Long Beach – one of the most iconic and prestigious races on the 2017 calendar – bidding to build upon that form with Dale Coyne Racing at the absolute pinnacle of US open-wheel competition.
 
A demanding track that rewards experience, the southern California street circuit already held happy memories for Jones, who had won there in his only prior appearance at the beginning of his maiden Indy Lights season two years earlier.
 
The 22-year-old Brit quickly reacclimatised on his return, logging some 54 laps throughout free practice behind the wheel of his 720bhp Dallara-Honda single-seater and proceeding to thread the needle between the unforgiving barriers in qualifying to line up 13th on the grid. That placed him directly behind DCR team-mate and championship leader Sébastien Bourdais – one of seven previous Long Beach winners in the fray – as he missed out on advancing to the second part of the session by less than 17 hundredths-of-a-second in an extremely high-calibre field.
 
When the lights went out at the start of the 85-lap Grand Prix of Long Beach the next day, Jones immediately gained ground to run ninth by dint of keeping his composure and taking advantage of an incident ahead. Settling into the slipstream of Saturday pace-setter Hélio Castroneves, the reigning Indy Lights Champion rose as high as seventh before pitting for the first time and conceding a handful of positions, but he soon battled back up the order – with a superb move on Graham Rahal a particular highlight.
 
Jones subsequently mastered a brace of late full-course caution periods and pulled off more eye-catching overtaking manoeuvres to work his way up to sixth, where he would remain to the chequered flag – right in amongst the series’ very biggest-hitters.
 
His second consecutive top ten result not only helped to consolidate DCR’s finest-ever start to an IndyCar campaign, but also elevated the former European F3 Open Champion to an excellent seventh in the points standings. Jones is now keen to maintain his burgeoning momentum when the IndyCar circus travels to Barber Motorsports Park for the Grand Prix of Alabama on 23 April.
 
“I knew a lot more about what to expect at a race weekend after what I had learned at St. Pete,” reflected the Williams-Harfield Sports Group protégé. “That was such a good experience for me and I was more comfortable in the end than I’d thought I was going to be – I think we took a lot of steps forward.
 
“Long Beach is one of my top two favourite events, with a great atmosphere and awesome circuit so it was good to be back. I struggled a little in practice, but we worked hard overnight to make changes to improve the car and to end up so close to the top 12 in qualifying showed that we had gone in the right direction. It was obviously a bit frustrating to be so near yet miss out, but it left me feeling really confident for the race and it was great to finish inside the top ten again – not to mention another fantastic team result with Seb in second. I was fighting in every stint, which was a lot of fun.
 
“Dale [Coyne] has put a tremendous effort into this team with the drivers, engineers, development and the whole package to take it to another level this year, and the proof is in these first two races – it's clear to see. That makes me really excited moving forward. We made big jumps from St. Pete, and I can't wait to get to Barber to make even more.”
 
That respect and appreciation is clearly mutual, with team owner Coyne quick to pay tribute to his new protégé’s stellar performances so early on in his career at the top of the Mazda Road to Indy ladder.
 
“Ed did a phenomenal job in Long Beach,” he enthused. “You have to watch him during the race. Sébastien couldn’t get around Marco Andretti in the first stint at St. Pete, but Ed got around Andretti in the second stint at St. Pete and he got around Rahal here. He’s passing people on the track and racing really well. I’m very happy with Ed’s progress.”

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Jones produces podium-threatening pace on stellar IndyCar debut

  • IndyCar rookie takes to new discipline like a duck to water
  • Dubai-based Brit instantly proves he belongs at highest level
  • Dale Coyne Racing star runs comfortably inside top three


Ed Jones proved to be immediately at home on his Verizon IndyCar Series bow around the Streets of St. Petersburg last weekend, as the talented Dubai, UAE-based ace graduated to the pinnacle of US open-wheel competition in fine style by running firmly up at the sharp end en route to his maiden top ten finish.
 
Jones has stepped up to the fiercely-disputed IndyCar Series with Dale Coyne Racing in 2017 after sprinting to the Indy Lights laurels last season. Following a productive winter testing programme, he arrived in Florida – scene of an eye-catching double victory on his US racing debut two years earlier – ready to showcase his skill in an extremely high-calibre, 21-strong pack comprising some of the very best single-seater exponents on the planet.
 
As the only full-time rookie in the field, the 22-year-old Brit adopted a mature approach throughout practice, taking care not to try to run before he could walk around the bumpy and narrow, notoriously unforgiving street circuit that caught out a number of his rivals – all the while edging consistently closer to the outright pace.
 
Jones proceeded to line up 18th on the starting grid in his 720bhp Dallara-Honda, just four spots and barely a tenth-of-a-second behind defending title-holder Simon Pagenaud – but when the lights went out in the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg the next day, the former European F3 Open Champion found himself tagged and pushed into the car in front in an opening lap mêlée, prompting an unscheduled pit visit to check for damage.
 
Happily, the #19 entry was still fully intact and once the action resumed, Jones began working his way up the order. Confidently holding his own in illustrious company of the ilk of three-time Indianapolis 500 winner Hélio Castroneves, former IndyCar Champion Ryan Hunter-Reay and his ultra-experienced, multiple title-winning DCR team-mate Sébastien Bourdais, he proved to be completely unawed by his adversaries’ formidable reputations.
 
His first planned refuelling stop on lap 25 fortuitously coincided with a full-course caution period for debris on the track, elevating the Williams-Harfield Sports Group protégé to fourth. Shortly after the re-start, he superbly snatched third place from Marco Andretti into Turn One and maintained that position right through to his next pit-stop more than 20 laps later.
 
Jones continued to run impressively inside the top five until he pitted for the final time with 26 laps to go. Rejoining the fray down in 11th, he fought back into the top ten before the chequered flag to cap an excellent performance in what was a long, mentally gruelling and physically punishing encounter – in so doing, consummately demonstrating that he unequivocally belongs at the highest level.
 
“Pre-season testing went pretty well and I felt very comfortable in the car arriving in St. Petersburg, even though I hadn’t had that much seat time,” he reflected. “I’ve been working well with the team and get along with everyone there. Until the first race, it’s always hard to know where you stand against the opposition because there are so many variables, so we had no solid expectations for the weekend but what was clear was that Dale Coyne Racing had taken a massive step forward from where they were last year.
 
“I’ve always loved street circuits and St. Petersburg is a great track. It’s where I made my debut in American racing and it was a perfect debut, so I have good memories there. The infield section is very technical and quite tight and then it opens up a bit towards the main straight.
 
“Practice went well; it was challenging, but I learnt a lot. Everything is a bit better compared to what I’ve been used to in an Indy Lights car. You’re faster, you’re braking a lot later and there’s more corner speed. On a street circuit, it’s tough to manage that at first because the margin for error is so small. As much as you want to push as hard as you can and find the limit, you also don’t want to lose any track time by putting it in the wall. That’s a difficult situation, but I think we handled it well.
 
“I was really excited for my first IndyCar qualifying session, though it was a little frustrating that the red flag came out early on. That meant I didn’t get to have an initial go on the Firestone Reds, so I didn’t really have time to adapt and had to go straight out again on a new set and push from there. For me, it was a bit of an unknown how the jump was going to be and by the time I realised how much deeper I could go, the tyres had already started falling off their best.
 
“That said, the car was really good and I felt like I was finally there. I just felt at home, which was the most important thing – and it was the same in the race. It was fantastic to run inside the top five for so long and to finish tenth first time out was a really promising result. That underlines what a tremendous effort the whole team has put in over the winter months to develop this car and make it stronger, which is all credit to Dale, the DCR boys and Honda. With Seb winning, we now have great momentum moving forward and I already can’t wait for the next race at Long Beach!”

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Jones takes the fight to IndyCar titans as he revs up for rookie campaign

  • British IndyCar rookie learning fast as maiden season speeds swiftly into view
  • WH Sports Group protégé impresses in first oval test with Dale Coyne Racing
  • 22-year-old promises steely approach as he tackles top US single-seater series

Ed Jones has served signal of his intent in the build-up to his maiden Verizon IndyCar Series campaign in 2017, by outpacing some of the championship’s biggest-hitters during the first official pre-season test at Phoenix Raceway.

The reigning Indy Lights Champion will graduate to the fiercely-disputed pinnacle of the Mazda Road to Indy ladder this year with Dale Coyne Racing (DCR). As part of his preparation, he travelled to the historic 1.022-mile Arizona oval for three days of running behind the wheel of his Honda-powered single-seater, whose twin-turbocharged engine produces some 270bhp more than he had to play with in 2016.
 
As the series’ only full-time rookie, the first of those days saw Jones enjoy almost exclusive use of the track, before he was joined by 20 high-calibre rivals for four sessions of daytime and evening action. The latter in particular was significant, given that the Phoenix Grand Prix on 29 April – the fourth of 17 outings on the 2017 IndyCar schedule – will take place under the floodlights.
 
Working closely with his race-winning engineer Michael Cannon, the talented Dubai, UAE-based ace completed just shy of 300 laps in total, sagely steering clear of trouble as a number of his adversaries came into contact with the unforgiving circuit walls.
 
More notably, Jones wrapped up the opening session in ninth position on the timesheets, a hair’s breadth behind DCR team-mate Sébastien Bourdais – one of the most successful drivers in US open-wheel history – and ahead of the likes of defending title-holder Simon Pagenaud, fellow IndyCar heavyweights Ryan Hunter-Reay and Scott Dixon and multiple Indianapolis 500 winner Helio Castroneves.
 
The former European F3 Open Champion continued to lap competitively throughout the test, and with the curtain-raising Grand Prix of St. Petersburg now less than a month away on 12 March, he is quietly confident of making his mark when the season gets underway in earnest.
 
“It was a very positive and productive test, and I think we offered a glimpse of our potential,” reflected Jones, who recently celebrated his 22nd birthday. “The Rookie Day was really useful, as it gave me the opportunity to get to grips with the IndyCar on an oval for the first time and get up-to-speed before everybody else joined the track.
 
“We covered a lot of laps, and that hard work paid off with the ninth-fastest time the next afternoon. I was actually up in P2 for much of the session and whilst it’s impossible to read anything into it at this stage because you don’t know what programmes or strategies different teams are running, it was very cool – and, I must admit, a little surreal – to see my name on the timing screens ahead of people like Pagenaud, Hunter-Reay, Dixon and Castroneves.
 
“After that, we switched our set-up to high-downforce race trim with a full fuel load for long-distance simulations, which meant we were never going to be turning the quickest laps in the field. The focus for me was on getting used to the traffic and following other cars in the dirty air, as well as pit-stop practice, which is not something I’ve had to deal with before.
 
“I’m feeling really comfortable in the team and increasingly at home inside the car; I’m getting on very well with all the DCR guys and Seb has always been happy to share the benefit of his experience. He is one of the most versatile drivers in the world; aside from his four Champ Car titles, he has competed successfully in a variety of disciplines from Formula 1 to Le Mans, so he has a wealth of knowledge and expertise that I can draw upon and he has been very open with me. All of that has served to smooth my transition from Indy Lights to IndyCar, and I feel in a good place right now.
 
“Ultimately, I’ll only have had a handful of days in the car before the first race weekend and whilst you always want more, that’s the way it is and we have prepared as well as we can in the time we have had. I clearly still have some catching up to do, but the key will be to make sure we maximise our final test at Sebring at the end of this month and step it up another level.
 
“IndyCar is so ultra-competitive and unpredictable that it’s pointless trying to second-guess the pecking-order until we get to St. Petersburg, and I’m deliberately not outlining any expectations to begin with. I’m under absolutely no illusions about how much of a challenge and learning curve I’m going to face in my first season, and the initial races will be all about finding my feet. At the same time, I’ve fought at the front in every championship I’ve ever entered, so that has to be the longer-term goal – and I’ll be pushing as hard as I can to achieve it as quickly as possible.”

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Jones rewarded for title-winning campaign with BRDC Earl Howe Trophy

  • Dubai-based Brit recognised for 2016 achievements at BRDC Awards
  • 21-year-old is youngest BRDC Member ever to lift Indy Lights laurels
  • WH Sports Group protégé ready to go testing ahead of IndyCar debut

Ed Jones capped a tremendous title-winning campaign in 2016 with the receipt of the prestigious Earl Howe Trophy at the British Racing Drivers’ Club (BRDC) Awards, as he celebrated his Indy Lights triumph in style in the presence of the motorsport glitterati.
 
Held in the opulent surroundings of the Grand Connaught Rooms in London’s Covent Garden, amongst the well-known faces at the BRDC Awards was new Formula 1 World Champion Nico Rosberg alongside legends of the sport Sir Stirling Moss OBE, Nigel Mansell CBE and Damon Hill OBE, meaning the talented Dubai, UAE-based ace was in exalted company indeed.
 
The Earl Howe Trophy is presented annually to the most successful BRDC Member racing in North America. Competing for single-seater powerhouse Carlin, Jones sped to a brace of victories, eight podium finishes and eight fastest laps in Indy Lights this year, ultimately clinching the coveted and fiercely-disputed crown at the end of a tense season finale at Laguna Seca – the youngest BRDC Member ever to do so.
 
The 21-year-old Brit’s stellar performances brought him to the attention of a number of Verizon IndyCar Series teams at the pinnacle of the Mazda Road to Indy ladder, and Jones will duly graduate to the top flight of US open-wheel competition with Dale Coyne Racing in 2017.
 
“It’s a great honour to be awarded the Earl Howe Trophy – just looking at the incredible roll call of drivers to have won it in the past like Dan Wheldon and Dario Franchitti is truly inspirational, and it’s amazing to have now added my name alongside theirs,” enthused the Williams-Harfield Sports Group protégé and former European F3 Open Champion.
 
“It’s really rewarding to be recognised for everything we’ve achieved over the past couple of seasons – it underscores how far we’ve come since moving to the States in 2015, and there are so many people who have been instrumental in that success.
 
“It was definitely a gamble to walk away from Europe to chase the IndyCar dream, but it’s one that has paid off through a lot of hard work – especially this year, when we really had to fight for the Indy Lights title up against a lot of tough opposition.
 
“IndyCar will unquestionably be another big step, but I’m feeling ready for it and can’t wait to get stuck in. I’ve had chance to spend a little bit of time with the DCR guys and get to know everybody there and we’re already forming a close bond.

“I’ll be testing with them for the first time at Sebring at the end of this week. It will be good to get properly down to business and begin preparing in earnest for 2017, and having been away from the cockpit of a racing car for almost three months, I can’t wait to climb back behind the wheel!”
 
“The BRDC are thrilled to award Ed with the Earl Howe Trophy after establishing the most meritorious performance of the year by a BRDC Member in North America,” added Club Secretary, Gillian Carr.
 
“It is incredibly satisfying to see that Ed, in his second season competing in Indy Lights, applied what he had learned in the formative years of his career in Euroformula Open and the FIA Formula 3 European Championship and demonstrated his class to come away with an iconic victory in a very competitive championship. It is the first time since 2007 that a driver of British origin has won the Indy Lights title.
 
“Ed’s graduation to the Verizon IndyCar Series with Dale Coyne Racing is a huge milestone for one of motorsport’s most exciting young talents, and we hope that his winter programme allows him to hit the ground running in St. Petersburg next March. It is a fantastic opportunity for Ed and as a former BRDC Rising Star, he is paving the way for other young British drivers who are considering a career in the United States.”

Awards Image Credits: Jakob Ebrey Photography