WILLIAMS-HARFIELD SPORTS GROUP PROTÉGÉ PROMISES TO ‘GIVE HIS ALL’ IN BAHRAIN FINALE

WILLIAMS-HARFIELD SPORTS GROUP PROTÉGÉ PROMISES TO ‘GIVE HIS ALL’ IN BAHRAIN FINALE

Gustavo Menezes ensured that the fight for the 2017 FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC) LMP2 class crown will go down to the wire in the Bahrain season finale later this month, after racing to a fifth consecutive podium finish last weekend in Shanghai (4-6 November).

Defending LMP2 World Champion Menezes headed to the technically challenging and abrasive Shanghai International Circuit in the knowledge that he and his Signatech Alpine Matmut team-mates Nicolas Lapierre and André Negrão needed to outscore their championship-leading rivals if he was to keep his title defence alive. A troubled run throughout practice and traffic for Negrão on his fastest lap in qualifying conspired to restrict the N°36 crew to a frustrated fifth on the starting grid for the 6 Hours of Shanghai, but a feisty opening salvo from Lapierre under grey, overcast skies saw the Frenchman steer clear of various incidents to move up to second.

Negrão maintained that position before handing over to 2016 FIA WEC ‘Revelation of the Year’ Menezes as the race approached mid-distance. In front of an enthusiastic crowd, the talented young American produced a flawless performance during his double stint behind the wheel of the 600bhp Alpine A470 prototype, after which Lapierre returned to the cockpit for the final push.

The runner-up spoils at the chequered flag – the result of a considered approach and a strategy focussed on efficiency – were just reward for a determined effort in a memorable contest not short on drama, tension and excitement. The outcome also means Menezes will enter the season finale in Bahrain on 18 November still in outside contention for the fiercely-disputed FIA Endurance Trophy for LMP2 Drivers, having further narrowed his deficit to the top of the table to 23 points – with 26 remaining in play under the Middle Eastern floodlights.

Another podium and another strong finish – it’s fair to say the end result was better than we might have anticipated at the start of the weekend,” acknowledged the highly-rated Santa Monica, California native, a former winner of the coveted Jim Russell Driver Scholarship Award.

Shanghai is a very difficult circuit to get right from a car balance perspective, and we struggled to find the Alpine A470’s sweet spot during practice and qualifying. We feared it would likely be a similar story over the longer runs in the race, but we pulled together and dug deep. The engineers Olivier and Tom worked miracles to turn things around, and the progress made allowed us to establish a much better direction with the set-up by Sunday morning.

Nico made an excellent start, and then André managed to keep up a very good rhythm before handing over to me. I was able to close a little bit on the leaders during my first stint, but it’s always a balancing act between putting pressure on the car in front and managing your tyres and fuel consumption.

As we only changed the rear tyres at the pit-stop, I had to deal with some understeer but we kept out of trouble when others came unstuck and that paid off. Although we probably didn’t have the outright speed to win in Shanghai, I think second place was an accurate reflection of our performance and a very solid result in the circumstances.

Most significantly, of course, it means we will go to Bahrain still in with a chance of defending our LMP2 title. Whilst that is admittedly the longest of long shots and we will need to rely on other factors outside of our control, I can promise you we will be giving it our absolute all right the way down to the very last lap!

MENEZES CLOSES ON CHAMPIONSHIP LEAD AS ALPINE WEATHER FUJI STORM

MENEZES CLOSES ON CHAMPIONSHIP LEAD AS ALPINE WEATHER FUJI STORM

Gustavo Menezes continued to home in on the top of the points table in the FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC) at Fuji last weekend (13-15 October), despite not even turning a wheel in a ‘crazy’ race punctuated by no fewer than six safety car periods, one Full Course Yellow and two red flag stoppages.

Fresh off the back of a scene-stealing performance at Petit Le Mans a week earlier – in which he had pulled off some spectacular overtaking manoeuvres to scythe through from fourth position into the overall lead – the talented young American returned to the track in Japan with his focus firmly on maintaining his positive run of momentum. In the legendary ‘Land of the Rising Sun’, it was somewhat ironic that virtually the entire weekend would be plagued by heavy rain, and Menezes and his Signatech Alpine Matmut team-mates Nicolas Lapierre and André Negrão initially struggled to extract the best out of their 600bhp Alpine A470 prototype in the inclement conditions.

Lapierre and Negrão dug deep in qualifying to secure fourth on the grid amongst the nine high-calibre LMP2 category protagonists, before overnight set-up work transformed the N°36 entry ahead of the following day’s 6 Hours of Fuji, which was held in front of more than 50,000 enthusiastic Japanese fans and against the dramatic backdrop of the iconic mountain that gives the fast-and-flowing, 2.835-mile circuit its name.

The Frenchman took the start of the race, and despite losing ground on the opening lap when he had to avoid a spinning Nelson Piquet Jnr, he rapidly set about storming through the pack, lapping significantly quicker than his rivals to advance to second before proceeding to apply pressure on the class leader. An aggressive strategy enabled Negrão to seize the advantage on lap 85, and – unlike the majority of the LMP2 brigade – the Alpine was fuelled to reach the finish when the action was halted for good on lap 115, with rain and dense fog reducing visibility to nigh-on non-existent.

Like a number of other drivers in the field, that meant Menezes – who was scheduled to climb behind the wheel for the final stint – never got to take to the track. With the result declared before most of the LMP2 contenders had served their last pit-stop, the highly-rated Santa Monica, California native and his two team-mates were classified a frustrated second, right in the slipstream of the race-winner. To rub salt into the wounds, Lapierre’s fastest lap was comfortably the best in-class, while Menezes took the honour of the fastest Alpine lap of the weekend outright in FP1, meaning the defending FIA WEC LMP2 Champion and 2016 ‘Revelation of the Year’ had at least proven his pace in practice, even if he was denied the opportunity to demonstrate his ability in the race itself.

His fourth rostrum finish in swift succession nonetheless saw Menezes close to just 25 points shy of the championship lead in endurance racing’s premier global series, with 52 still in play over the remaining two outings of 2017 in Shanghai and Bahrain – and he is ready to fight.

 

What a crazy race!” reflected the 23-year-old Williams-Harfield Sports Group protégé, a former winner of the coveted Jim Russell Driver Scholarship Award. “That was the first time I’ve ever been on the podium without actually having driven the car! The conditions were really difficult all weekend, right from the word ‘go’. Initially we found it tricky to establish a good balance for the A470, however come race day, Alpine and the engineers did an amazing job and the guys created a rocketship!

Fourth on the grid placed us well in the ballpark to achieve a good result, and Nico demonstrated just how strong we were by recording the fastest lap of the race prior to handing over to André.

Although I unfortunately didn’t get to drive my stint due to the many delays and stoppages, I still experienced all the excitement from the pit garage. I also shared the frustration of the team, because we clearly had the car, the strategy and the speed to win and without the final red flag, I’m confident we would have done so as we had a pit-stop in hand over our closest rivals and were the fastest on the track. The end result was obviously disappointing, but safety has to be the number one priority and with such heavy rain and thick fog, the risk was just too great to re-start.

Our fourth consecutive podium enabled us to narrow the gap slightly to the top of the LMP2 standings, and while we should have closed up even more, there are still two races to go and we will keep pushing right the way to the end. We’ve really found the sweet spot with the Alpine A470 now and we’re keeping the pressure up, so bring on Shanghai!

JONES REFLECTS ON ‘FANTASTIC’ ROOKIE SEASON AFTER CALIFORNIAN INDYCAR FINALE

JONES REFLECTS ON ‘FANTASTIC’ ROOKIE SEASON AFTER CALIFORNIAN INDYCAR FINALE

Ed Jones’ hopes of signing off the 2017 Verizon IndyCar Series season with a sixth top ten finish were dashed by mechanical misfortune at Sonoma Raceway last weekend, but the talented Dubai, UAE-born ace was nonetheless able to hold his head high at the end of an impressive maiden campaign at the pinnacle of US open-wheel competition.

Having tested at Sonoma Raceway earlier this year but never previously raced there, Jones returned to the 12-turn, 2.385-mile northern California road course for the Grand Prix of Sonoma eager to produce one more eye-catching performance before the final chequered flag fell.

The 2016 Indy Lights Champion and former European F3 Open Champion logged 42 laps over the course of a pre-weekend test day held in changeable conditions, placing 13th on the timesheets amongst the 22 high-calibre protagonists, but practice and qualifying would prove to be more of a struggle, leaving him a disappointed 18th on the grid for the race. Undeterred, a bright start saw Jones advance five spots on the opening lap to settle into 13th position, subsequently progressing further to run 12th. The 22-year-old Brit looked set to finish inside the top ten behind the wheel of his 720bhp Dale Coyne Racing Dallara-Honda single-seater, until a right-rear suspension failure just 16 laps from home spelt an early bath.

Sonoma was a completely different experience to the previous race at Watkins Glen, going from a super high-grip track to one that falls off really quickly,” he mused. “It was also very hot compared to Watkins Glen, where it had been on the cold side, so polar opposites really.

When we tested there, we had a pretty decent car but the circuit conditions changed a lot between the open test and free practice. There were also cars from other series that had been on-track in the meantime, and the different types of rubber laid down made it more challenging and unpredictable.

Qualifying clearly didn’t work out the way we had hoped. We had been aiming to be in the fight for the ‘Fast 12’, but we tried something in an effort to overcome the difficulties we had encountered in practice and while that helped in some areas, there were a few downsides as well.

I had a good start to the race and gained quite a few positions. I attacked really hard because I knew that would be my best opportunity to make up ground, and we ran 12th for a long time with pretty decent pace. We were on-course to finish at least 11th and could maybe even have slipped into the top ten, so it was obviously frustrating to then suffer our first major technical issue of the season. Saying that, everything has gone so well this year that the law of averages dictates it was going to happen eventually.”

 

The failure to finish was a double blow – quite literally – given that double points were on offer for the Grand Prix of Sonoma, restricting Jones to 14th in the final standings. Nonetheless, after being presented with the prestigious ‘Sunoco Rookie of the Year’ trophy – and the $50,000 prize that accompanies it – the Williams-Harfield Sports Group protégé professed himself justifiably pleased with his achievements in 2017, capped by an outstanding third place in the legendary Indianapolis 500 back in May.

It’s been a great year for us and it’s an honour to receive this award,” he enthused. “There are so many drivers in the past that have won it as rookies and moved on to be champions or won a lot of races, and I’m hoping I can be part of that story. I feel like as a driver, I got stronger as the season progressed. Early on, I had some great results and while I was driving well then, a lot of things also fell my way. Now, I think I’m better both as a driver and in terms of my bond with the team.

Coming through the Mazda Road to Indy was key to my success this year. Before 2015, I had only raced in Europe. Learning all the American circuits was very important for me, and to be able to do that in Indy Lights was really helpful. Without that, I wouldn’t have been able to gain the experience I did, which is what makes the Mazda Road to Indy so relevant for young, up-and-coming drivers like myself.

I want to thank Dale [Coyne] and the whole DCR team for the opportunity they gave me this season, to work alongside a great group of engineers which has allowed me to progress quickly and secure some of the results we did. It’s been a fantastic year, and I hope we can do it again in 2018.”

MENEZES REIGNITES TITLE DEFENCE WITH DOMINANT VICTORY ON HOME TURF

MENEZES REIGNITES TITLE DEFENCE WITH DOMINANT VICTORY ON HOME TURF

Gustavo Menezes fired himself firmly back into title contention in the 2017 FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC) in Austin last weekend, with a commanding and hugely popular victory on home soil as Signatech Alpine Matmut celebrated an overdue return to winning ways.

Having endured a difficult start to the defence of his hard-fought FIA WEC LMP2 class crown, Menezes’ season kicked up a gear over the summer, with third place at Germany’s Nürburgring and second in Mexico City, leaving the talented young American with his tail up heading to his home race, the 6 Hours of COTA held around the undulating and technical Circuit of The Americas.

Behind the wheel of the 600bhp Alpine A470 prototype, Menezes and his Signatech Alpine Matmut team-mates Nicolas Lapierre and André Negrão featured consistently inside the top five during free practice amongst the nine high-calibre LMP2 protagonists. The Frenchman and Brazilian then teamed up in qualifying to annex a second consecutive pole position, with Lapierre taking to the N°36 entry for the start of the race and going on to pull inexorably away from the chasing pack under the blazing Texan sun.

With the team deliberately adopting an aggressive strategy, Negrão and Menezes continued that good work, but their 40-second lead was reduced to nothing shortly after half-distance when the safety car emerged and bunched up the field. The highly-rated Santa Monica, California native wasted no time at all in re-establishing a healthy advantage once the action resumed, and he was back in the car in the closing stages when a late scare necessitated a rear bodywork change with just 12 minutes left on the clock. Once again, Menezes found himself having to get back on the gas, but he had enough in-hand to cross the finish line comfortably clear of the second-placed car, with Lapierre claiming a new lap record for good measure.

The result not only confirmed Signatech Alpine Matmut’s recent progress and upward trajectory, but also replicated Menezes and Lapierre’s 2016 Texan triumph. Notably, the 23-year-old Williams-Harfield Sports Group protégé is now the leading LMP2 scorer from the last three rounds in sportscar racing’s premier and most fiercely-disputed global series. Having advanced to third in the championship standings, he has closed the gap to the top of the table from 42 points to 28 with 78 remaining in play over the final three outings – beginning across the other side of the Pacific Ocean at Fuji in Japan in mid-October.

 

We’re back in the groove!” enthused 2016 FIA WEC ‘Revelation of the Year’ Menezes, a former winner of the coveted Jim Russell Driver Scholarship Award. “This win has been a long time coming, and what makes it all-the-more satisfying is that there was no element of luck involved – we were the team to beat throughout and it was so good to be able to go out there and truly take charge of the race. We led for 144 of the 177 laps, which I think speaks for itself.

As the only American driver in the field, I knew I was upholding national pride so there was a little bit of pressure on my shoulders from that perspective, and there’s no question that for me, after Le Mans, COTA is the most important race. Not only that, but it’s the most physical track on the calendar, its anti-clockwise layout is tiring on the neck muscles and the temperatures make tyre management key.

During practice, our sole focus was on race pace, so to take pole position the way we did in qualifying came as a bit of a surprise. We knew we were going to be competitive, but we didn’t expect to be quite that competitive. Nico and André did a great job, which proves just how well this new partnership is working. It already felt quite natural and cohesive in Mexico, and I think we gelled even more in Austin.

In the race, we managed our strategy perfectly – although it was obviously tough to see the 40-second lead that we had worked so hard to build up wiped out by the appearance of the safety car. That left us with it all to do over again, but the car felt fantastic so we had a lot of fun pushing to re-establish our advantage and because I was in the cockpit at the time, it gave me the opportunity to really show what I could do.

My final stint wasn’t straightforward either. We had increased our lead to around a minute heading into the closing stages when I got a radio call from the team saying, ‘you need to back off a bit to save fuel so we can avoid a late splash n’ dash’. That was followed by another call shortly afterwards saying, ‘scrap that, you need to push because we have to pit to replace the rear assembly due to a tail-light failure’.

The Signatech Alpine Matmut guys did an incredible job to complete the work in just ten seconds, which meant we still had an 18-second margin when we rejoined the track and I could essentially just cruise to the finish. It was very special for me to be able to take the chequered flag again, and a proud and emotional moment to clinch our first win of the season at my home event.

This victory has put us back in the championship hunt, so now the key will be to keep our positive momentum going. The level of competition in WEC is so high that you need to be absolutely on top of your game but after a difficult start to the season, we’re finally beginning to rediscover the form we showed last year – which means it’s maximum attack from here on in!

TAN TURNS ATTENTIONS TO BLANCPAIN GT SERIES ASIA FOR REMAINDER OF 2017

TAN TURNS ATTENTIONS TO BLANCPAIN GT SERIES ASIA FOR REMAINDER OF 2017

Highly-rated young Chinese ace Weiron Tan will compete in the fiercely-disputed Blancpain GT Series Asia for the remainder of 2017, after Absolute Racing took the decision to divert its Bentley Continental GT3 programme from the China GT Championship.

Having steered his burgeoning career from single-seaters to sportscars this year, 22-year-old Tan has impressed during the course of his maiden full season in his new discipline, securing pole position for three races out of six, setting fastest lap at Zhuhai International Circuit and claiming a hat-trick of GT3 class podium finishes in the supporting GT Asia Championship for international teams alongside Korean team-mate Andrew Kim.

Following the switch, Tan and Kim will now complete the campaign in the Blancpain GT Series Asia, beginning at Shanghai International Circuit this coming weekend (23/24 September) and concluding at Zhejiang Circuit just under a month later (21/22 October).

 

It was a unanimous decision made by the team for both Bentleys to participate in Blancpain for the rest of the season, and I am very excited for our debut!” enthused the CEFC Manor TRS Racing official test and reserve driver and former Caterham F1 Academy member, who is managed by Williams Harfield Sports Group.

Blancpain is an extremely competitive series, but as we proved in China GT, I believe we have a strong enough package to compete at the front and I am looking forward to the challenges ahead.”

CONDITIONS CONSPIRE TO BLUNT JONES’ CHARGE AT THE GLEN

CONDITIONS CONSPIRE TO BLUNT JONES’ CHARGE AT THE GLEN

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.”

JONES SEALS ‘ROOKIE OF THE YEAR’ SPOILS AT GATEWAY MOTORSPORTS PARK

JONES SEALS ‘ROOKIE OF THE YEAR’ SPOILS AT GATEWAY MOTORSPORTS PARK

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.”

JONES PRODUCES PACEY POCONO PERFORMANCE BEFORE MISFORTUNE INTERVENES

JONES PRODUCES PACEY POCONO PERFORMANCE BEFORE MISFORTUNE INTERVENES

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.”

CARLIN DEVELOPMENT DRIVER CONWRIGHT TARGETS MAZDA ROAD TO INDY IN 2018

CARLIN DEVELOPMENT DRIVER CONWRIGHT TARGETS MAZDA ROAD TO INDY IN 2018

Jaden Conwright has set his sights on graduation to the Mazda Road to Indy in 2018, after demonstrating ‘dedication and maturity beyond his years’ during the course of a promising testing programme with single-seater powerhouse Carlin.

Conwright stepped up from karting to car racing in 2014, and after competing in the Italian F4 Championship last season – tallying 12 top ten finishes in the rookie class – the highly-rated young American joined the prestigious Carlin Academy this year. To-date, he has conducted four tests for the British outfit as a member of its Driver Development Programme, putting Carlin’s BRDC British F3 car through its paces at Snetterton, Rockingham and Pembrey and progressing consistently with each run – to the extent where he posted the quickest lap time in South Wales.

All of the tests have gone well,” affirmed the San Francisco Bay Area, California-born ace. “Even on a dirty and congested track, my first day at Snetterton was a perfect opportunity to shake down the F3 car and slowly dip my feet into the concept of driving a downforce car, which is much faster than what I have been used to before.

Rockingham went even better and provided me with a great basis for what I needed to improve on before heading to Pembrey. The two days there offered the perfect environment to learn more about the British F3 car, because it’s a very short and technical circuit and we got a lot of clear laps in.

I was also able to compare my data with that of Carlin’s British F4 driver, Patrik Pasma, which was essential in helping me to understand the strong and weak points in my driving. By the end of the two days at Pembrey, I had a much better grasp of how to drive the F3 car and a lot more confidence to rely on its downforce through the high-speed corners.”

 

Conwright’s burgeoning momentum and admirable approach to his apprenticeship have rapidly endeared him to Carlin, a team whose illustrious alumni include the likes of Sebastian Vettel, Nico Rosberg, Daniel Ricciardo, Will Power, Sébastien Buemi and António Félix da Costa.

We were pleasantly surprised by Jaden’s progress at Pembrey since his last visit to Carlin,” revealed the squad’s BRDC British F3 Chief Engineer, Mark Owen. “Immediately we noticed that he was more focussed, and with that comes more determination and drive“.

Of course there is more work to be done, and in future tests we will concentrate on the finer details of both throttle and brake application in the high-speed corners, but it was a good couple of days. It gave us a fantastic opportunity to develop Jaden’s driving skills still further, and I’m sure his confidence will have been boosted by setting the fastest time of the test.”

Jaden is the perfect Carlin Academy candidate – planning ahead for the next stage in his career to ensure he is in the best possible shape,” added the initiative’s Director, Trevor Carlin. “His dedication and maturity are beyond his years and his progress on-track has been very impressive. We have a detailed test programme to work through with him into the autumn, and I’ve no doubt he’ll be a great prospect for the 2018 season, whichever series he chooses.”

On the subject of the future, Conwright is evaluating a return back across the Pond to participate in the Pro Mazda Championship, the second tier on the well-established Mazda Road to Indy ladder. Inspired by Williams Harfield Sports Group’s success with Jack Hawksworth and Ed Jones, the 18-year-old is bidding to follow in their wheeltracks by forging his own path to the pinnacle of US open-wheel competition.

Carlin is a world-class team, and the opportunity to work with them has been extremely helpful,” he acknowledged. “Moving from an Italian to a British team was a change, but I feel like I’ve settled in nicely and Carlin’s wealth of knowledge has been very beneficial to me. Over the remainder of 2017, the plan is to continue to improve my driving and understanding of the BRDC British F3 car and hopefully get the chance to contest the Autumn Trophy.

As for 2018, the option to go back to the States in Pro Mazda with the new Taatus-built chassis is a great possibility. The experience I’ve gained from driving the British F3 car – coupled with WHSG’s proven MRTI record with Jack and Ed – gives me a strong base from which to enter the championship and to pursue my ultimate goal of becoming a professional driver in the Verizon IndyCar Series and racing in the Indianapolis 500.”

OUT-OF-LUCK JONES ENDURES ‘WEEKEND TO FORGET’ AT MID-OHIO

OUT-OF-LUCK JONES ENDURES ‘WEEKEND TO FORGET’ AT MID-OHIO

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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