Conditions conspire to blunt Jones' charge at The Glen

  • IndyCar ‘Rookie of the Year’ goes unrewarded for determined drive
  • Dubai-born Brit battles against the odds at iconic Watkins Glen
  • Dale Coyne Racing ace fired-up to finish season strongly at Sonoma

Ed Jones placed an unlucky 13th in last weekend’s INDYCAR Grand Prix at The Glen – the penultimate outing on the fiercely-disputed Verizon IndyCar Series schedule – as he was left to lament an unexpected change in conditions that denied him a better result.
Less than a week after being crowned IndyCar’s ‘Rookie of the Year’, Jones headed to the legendary, ultra-fast Watkins Glen International circuit in upstate New York in optimistic mood, having finished second there 12 months earlier en route to the Indy Lights title.
Unlike 18 of his 20 high-calibre rivals, though, the talented Dubai, UAE-born ace had no prior experience around the physically demanding, 3.37-mile permanent road course in an IndyCar, putting him somewhat on the back foot heading into the weekend’s three 45-minute practice sessions.
Logging 56 laps behind the wheel of his 720bhp Dale Coyne Racing Dallara-Honda single-seater, Jones wound up 18th in practice before improving to 15th in qualifying. With rain in the air ahead of the 60-lap race the following day, however, drivers and teams had some difficult decisions to make regarding car set-up.
A wet race was subsequently declared, obliging the 22-year-old Brit to take the start on wet tyres but with the track rapidly drying, the majority of the field – Jones included – darted to the pit-lane to switch over to slicks at the end of lap one.
With some drivers adopting a different strategy, the former European F3 Open Champion slipped to 19th after his second pit-stop, but he dug deep and despite having to contend with a car set up for wet weather, he fought his way through to 13th at the chequered flag to maintain 14th position in the points standings during his maiden campaign at the pinnacle of US open-wheel competition.
Following three back-to-back races, Jones now has a weekend off before returning to the fray for IndyCar’s 2017 season finale at Sonoma Raceway in California on September 15-17.
"It was good to go back to a road course, and Watkins Glen is among my favourite tracks in the United States,” reflected the Williams-Harfield Sports Group protégé. “That said, I knew it would be very different in an IndyCar, and difficult with all the G-forces through the high-speed corners.
"We had a decent morning on the first day, but we made some changes for the afternoon that didn't pay off at all and we struggled a lot in the second session. Nothing felt right, so we worked hard and improved the car again for Saturday – although obviously, it still wasn’t quite enough. I think we were a step behind. If the car had been like it was in qualifying in free practice, we would have been able to take another step forward and maybe be a bit further up, but 15th wasn’t too bad.
“We knew we could progress from there and move our way forward, but unfortunately, it was a tough race. The conditions didn’t go as we anticipated they would and being set up for rain, we were at quite a disadvantage, which made it tricky. I thought we would still be on for a decent result, but I ended up at the back of the field after my second pit-stop as some drivers were on a different strategy and it was an uphill battle from there. It’s a bit frustrating, but I feel like I drove pretty well and I had some good racing.”

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Jones seals 'Rookie of the Year' spoils at Gateway Motorsports Park

  • Dubai-born Brit secures coveted IndyCar rookie accolade
  • Dale Coyne Racing star fights hard for 13th place in Illinois
  • WH Sports Group protégé back out on-track this weekend

Ed Jones clinched the coveted Verizon IndyCar Series ‘Sunoco Rookie of the Year’ crown at Gateway Motorsports Park last weekend (25/26 August), courtesy of a hard-fought 13th-place finish in the Bommarito Automotive Group 500.

The reigning Indy Lights Champion has enjoyed an impressive maiden campaign at the pinnacle of US open-wheel competition this year with Dale Coyne Racing, starring with a top three finish in the iconic Indianapolis 500 and invariably holding his own against rivals with far more experience than him – not to mention glittering career CVs.
Jones continued to catch the eye by lapping fifth-quickest during free practice on his first visit to the 1.25-mile, egg-shaped Illinois oval. Although he found himself unexpectedly plagued by oversteer in the twilight qualifying session, 12th on the grid amongst the 21 high-calibre contenders represented a very solid starting position as the talented Dubai, UAE-born ace led the charge for DCR at an average speed of 182.9mph – outpacing the likes of heavy-hitters Graham Rahal and Ryan Hunter-Reay for good measure.
The floodlit 248-lap race began under yellow flags following an early spin for one of Jones’ competitors, and once the action belatedly got underway, the 22-year-old Brit advanced a couple of spots. After threatening the top ten for a while, he ultimately took the chequered flag 13th as his 720bhp Dallara-Honda single-seater faded in the closing stages – but that was nonetheless enough to put the destiny of the ‘Rookie of the Year’ laurels beyond doubt.
With no time to rest, Jones will return to the fray this coming weekend (1-3 September) for the IndyCar Grand Prix at the Glen – the penultimate outing on the fiercely-disputed series’ 2017 schedule.
“After testing at Gateway earlier this year, I was really excited to go back for the race – they did a tremendous job to get the facility ready to welcome IndyCar,” praised the former European F3 Open Champion. “I really liked the track with the new surface; it’s smooth and a lot of fun to drive, and already one of my favourite ovals.
“We knew the weekend might be a little challenging with our short oval aero package, but we had a solid first practice. Unfortunately, the conditions then changed significantly before qualifying with the drop in temperature, and that really made a big difference. We had a bit too much oversteer and I had to save the car from spinning a few times, which killed the speed a bit.
“We were still hopeful of being able to move forward from there, but it was a tough race. We ran with a lot of downforce and early on we had some good battles, but later, the pace of the car wasn’t quick enough so it was a bit frustrating. It was a shame I didn’t have the speed at the end, because it was a fantastic event and it was great to see so many fans come out to support us.”

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Jones produces pacey Pocono performance before misfortune intervenes

  • Dale Coyne Racing star denied top ten finish by late error at Pocono
  • Verizon IndyCar Series rookie tames Pennsylvania’s ‘Tricky Triangle’
  • Dubai-born Brit continues to prove pace with 217mph qualifying run

Ed Jones ran as high as second in last weekend’s ABC Supply 500 at Pocono Raceway – the 14th of 17 outings in the fiercely-disputed 2017 Verizon IndyCar Series – but the combination of a rare late-race error and little luck with the timing of caution periods conspired to deny the impressive rookie a top ten finish.
Reigning Indy Lights Champion Jones was making his debut around the 2.5-mile Pennsylvania oval – known as the ‘Tricky Triangle’ for the unique challenge it poses – whereas 18 of his 21 high-calibre IndyCar rivals had competed there before. Immediately on the back foot, his lack of experience at the north-eastern superspeedway was compounded by a spin and light contact with the wall in free practice as he got to grips with Pocono’s very particular characteristics.
Undeterred, the talented young Dubai, UAE-born ace produced an excellent performance in qualifying – in which grid slots were determined by the fastest cumulative times over two consecutive laps – to line up 11th at an average speed of 217.565mph behind the wheel of his 720bhp Dale Coyne Racing Dallara-Honda. As strong winds resulted in a number of incidents, Jones didn’t put a foot out-of-place, outpacing championship leader Josef Newgarden and several other big names in the process.
In the 500-mile race the following day, the 22-year-old Brit conceded some early ground but swiftly set about fighting back. He was up to eighth – duelling with IndyCar heavyweights Ryan Hunter-Reay and Hélio Castroneves – by the time he made his second pit visit just past one-quarter distance.
As is frequently the case at the pinnacle of US single-seater competition, the pecking order oscillated wildly as various issues and dramas brought out the yellow flags, sending drivers scurrying for the pits and playing havoc with strategy calls – and on this occasion, Jones did not enjoy the rub of the green.
Running competitively in the pack, the former European F3 Open Champion reached second place at one stage – picking off the likes of oval specialist Ed Carpenter and pole-sitter Takuma Sato along the way – but a mistake entering his pit box at his final stop relegated him to the tail of the field. Jones went on to take the chequered flag a disappointed 17th, and is fired-up to bounce back quickly at Gateway Motorsports Park this coming weekend (25/26 August).
“Pocono Raceway certainly lived up to its nickname!” quipped the Williams-Harfield Sports Group protégé. “It’s fast and quite a difficult track, but DCR had been really strong on circuits like that earlier in the season, so I was confident we would have a good idea of what we needed when we got there and I was really looking forward to it.
“Our plan was always to go conservative in qualifying, because looking at the bigger picture, there can be a lot of consequences for not a lot of gain – and it had been proved in the past that grid position is not necessarily one of the major factors at Pocono.
“Eleventh represented a solid place to start from and I was optimistic of being able to move forward, but unfortunately, it was a difficult race. The approach we took with the set-up meant it was really hard to progress without errors from the cars in front, which made things challenging.
“That said, it was fun in parts; some guys were quite aggressive and there were a few crazy moves, so I was adjusting to that and we had a good run, but we were pretty unlucky with the timing of the yellows. We were still looking alright towards the end, but then I made a mistake at my last pit-stop and that cost us. It's just frustrating, because I feel we should have come away with a decent result.”

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Out-of-luck Jones endures 'weekend to forget' at Mid-Ohio

  • Rough day at the office for leading IndyCar Series rookie
  • Dubai-born Brit frustrated as potential goes unfulfilled
  • Dale Coyne Racing ace switches focus to ‘Tricky Triangle’

Ed Jones labelled his latest outing in the fiercely-disputed Verizon IndyCar Series at Mid-Ohio ‘a weekend to forget’, after a variety of misfortunes conspired to leave the championship’s standout rookie out-of-luck.
Jones travelled to the high-speed, 2.258-mile Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course with prior experience of its scenic and undulating nature from his brace of campaigns at Indy Lights level, and buoyed by a successful single-day test there the previous week with Dale Coyne Racing.
The talented Dubai, UAE-born ace completed 48 laps over the course of three preparatory practice sessions, winding up 15th-quickest amongst the 21 high-calibre contenders, just over half-a-second adrift of the outright benchmark. He replicated that performance in qualifying, although he was frustrated not to be further up the grid after finding his efforts hindered by traffic.
In the next day’s Honda Indy 200 – the 13th of 17 races in 2017 at the pinnacle of US open-wheel competition – Jones pitted early before working his way up to 12th. Unfortunately, his challenge then began to unravel, as the 22-year-old Brit found himself delayed by a problem with the right-rear tyre on his 720bhp Dallara-Honda single-seater during his third pit-stop on lap 58.
The loss of time dropped Jones to the rear of the field, and a subsequent spin as he endeavoured to regain ground only served to compound matters. The reigning Indy Lights title-holder and former European F3 Open Champion battled on to take the chequered flag a disappointed 21st.
Following a brief hiatus, the IndyCar Series will resume in three weeks’ time with the ABC Supply 500 at Pocono Raceway – Pennsylvania’s legendary ‘Tricky Triangle’.
“It was a difficult weekend,” acknowledged the Williams-Harfield Sports Group protégé, “all the more so since we had a really positive pre-event test at Mid-Ohio, during which our car seemed pretty fast compared to others that were there.
"Practice was a bit frustrating. We tried a few things, but they didn't go the way we wanted. There was also some traffic, as well as rain, which didn't help. Qualifying was tough, too. We got slowed slightly by a car in front, and then my car just got loose and I wasn't able to improve my lap time at the end to move up the order. There was more potential than we were able to show.
“To complete the hat-trick, finally, the race didn't go our way either! It’s very difficult to overtake at Mid-Ohio, the car was a little hard to drive, we had the issue in the pit-stop that sent me to the back of the field and then I had the spin that put me two laps down. It was a bit of a weekend to forget, all-in-all...”

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Jones' Canadian charge undone by late misfortune

  • Standout IndyCar rookie showcases street fighting pedigree in Toronto
  • Dubai-born Brit produces feisty performance to challenge front-runners
  • Late retirement dashes Dale Coyne Racing ace’s hopes of strong finish
Ed Jones chanced his arm in last weekend’s Honda Indy Toronto (14-16 July) by adopting an audacious strategy that vaulted him temporarily to the front of the field – but ultimately, the Verizon IndyCar Series rookie saw his challenge scuppered by late-race mechanical failure.
Jones headed to the cosmopolitan Canadian city with prior experience of Exhibition Place’s 11-turn, 1.786-mile street circuit from two seasons of Indy Lights competition, and 66 practice laps behind the wheel of his 720bhp Dallara-Honda single-seater allowed him to reacquaint himself with its demanding and changeable nature.
The talented young Dubai, UAE-born ace missed out on advancing to part two of the knockout qualifying session by scarcely a tenth-of-a-second, restricting him to a disappointed 15th on the starting grid amongst the 21 high-calibre protagonists at the pinnacle of US open-wheel competition, in what has been billed as the most fiercely-disputed IndyCar campaign in living memory.
Spurred on by the presence in the Dale Coyne Racing pit garage of early-season team-mate Sébastien Bourdais – who is continuing to convalesce from the hip and pelvis fractures he sustained in a qualifying accident for May’s Indianapolis 500 – Jones immediately set about gaining ground in the race, and following an early full course caution period, he went on the attack.
After despatching Max Chilton, JR Hildebrand and Marco Andretti in quick succession, the reigning Indy Lights title-holder scythed his way boldly into the top ten by lap 20. He subsequently pulled off a superb pass on 20-year IndyCar veteran Tony Kanaan as he infiltrated the fight for fifth, and he had risen as high as seventh when the yellow flags appeared again for a car in the barriers just before one-third distance.
With threatening skies and precipitation in the air, DCR elected to roll the dice by leaving Jones out on-track as the majority of his rivals dived for the pit-lane for a fresh set of tyres. That elevated the 22-year-old Brit to second behind eventual winner Josef Newgarden, but with the anticipated rain failing to materialise, he found himself increasingly struggling for speed on his worn rubber and had to really get his elbows out to defend his position as his pursuers piled on the pressure.
After valiantly waging a losing battle, Jones was forced to pit on lap 33 as his Firestone reds cried enough, relegating him to the rear of the order. Despite having to additionally contend with a fractured left foot from a previous race, the Williams-Harfield Sports Group protégé was on the comeback trail and embroiled in a multi-car scrap just outside the top ten when he rolled to a halt with an oil pressure problem with just nine laps left to run.
His misfortune has dropped Jones to 12th in the drivers’ standings ahead of the next outing on the 2017 IndyCar schedule at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course (28-30 July), where he is determined to convert his palpable pace and potential into a solid haul of points.
“Toronto is one of my favourite races on the calendar,” reflected the former European F3 Open Champion. “It’s a difficult track and very bumpy, and you frequently find yourself sliding around in the corners. It’s also very technical and tight in some sections, while the continually evolving grip levels and surface changes mean it is tricky to strike the optimum set-up.
“Getting up-to-speed went reasonably well in practice, although we struggled with the balance of the car in the first session and in the second session it got a bit worse. We tried to fix it, but we didn’t make as much progress as we would have liked. Toronto also requires much more braking than Iowa, but whilst my foot hurt a lot, I have a high pain tolerance and was able to brake without any dramas.
“We made some changes for qualifying, but it was a tough session – the jump with the alternate Firestone red tyres was very big. I thought I drove a pretty good lap, but I missed out on the Fast 12 by just a little bit. It was close, as usual, but frustrating at the same time.
“In the race, we picked up quite a few spots passing cars during the first stint and I felt like we had the pace to be in the top six, but we got unlucky with the caution and that sent us to the back. We gambled on rain coming, but it didn’t pay off. At the end of the day, we had an oil line issue so it wouldn’t have worked out anyway, but it was good to see that we had a lot of potential and we’ll try to carry that forward to Mid-Ohio.”
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