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…

DUBAI-BORN BRIT UNREWARDED FOR EXCELLENT QUALIFYING FORM

DUBAI-BORN BRIT UNREWARDED FOR EXCELLENT QUALIFYING FORM

Ed Jones grappled with an ill-handling car at Iowa Speedway last weekend (8/9 July), as the talented young Dubai, UAE-born ace struggled for speed in the 11th round of the fiercely-disputed Verizon IndyCar Series – but he is already planning to bounce straight back in Toronto.

Jones had competed around the bumpy, 0.894-mile oval twice in Indy Lights – finishing on the podium both times – but he knew that tackling it in a 720bhp IndyCar would be an altogether more challenging proposition. Underscoring his credentials, however – and following a productive pre-event test – the Dale Coyne Racing rookie returned to the track and lapped 13th-quickest amongst the 21 high-calibre protagonists during practice, despite driving with a fractured left foot.

He subsequently belied his early running slot – in a scenario in which track conditions generally improve as more rubber is laid down – to top the timesheets for a while in qualifying, and his impressive two-lap average of 182.290mph would ultimately prove good enough to snare a season-best eighth on the starting grid behind the wheel of his Dallara-Honda single-seater. Unfortunately, a set-up change ahead of Sunday’s 300-lap Iowa Corn 300 backfired, leaving the reigning Indy Lights Champion waging a losing battle from the outset and despite his earnest efforts, he was powerless to prevent a slide down the order.

After dropping to the rear of the lead pack in 15th, Jones settled into a rhythm and enjoyed entertaining scraps with the likes of Josef Newgarden, Carlos Munoz and championship leader Scott Dixon. He had hauled himself back up to 12th when an ill-timed pit-stop just before the second caution period of the race cost him two laps and relegated him to the very tail of the field. Following a short stoppage prompted by a rain shower, the 22-year-old Brit gritted his teeth to take the chequered flag a frustrated 18th.

Wasting no time at all in dwelling on his misfortune, Jones is already en route to Toronto for the next outing at the pinnacle of US open-wheel competition this coming weekend (15/16 July), with the former European F3 Open Champion eager indeed to unleash his street fighting skills north of the border in Canada.

 

It was good to have the chance to test at Iowa prior to the race weekend, but still we expected it to be difficult for the Honda teams, like it was in Phoenix,” he reflected. “That said, I was looking forward to it and having established a strong record on ovals – especially at Iowa in Indy Lights – the aim was to keep that form going.

Qualifying went well, even though the track changed significantly from morning practice, which made it very tricky to drive. I think a lot of people struggled, but the DCR engineers did a good job deciding what to do with the car and we ended up eighth. Being such a short lap, you have to rehearse it in your mind before you go out there so you know exactly what to do, because it all happens so quickly. It’s a lot of fun, and when you climb out at the end, you’re shaking a bit because it’s pretty extreme.

We made some changes overnight with the race distance in mind and we were confident of coming away with another good result, but unfortunately, we went the wrong way on the set-up and struggled with oversteer throughout, which made the car a handful to drive.

We tried to dial the oversteer out by reducing the front wing angle in the pit-stops, but the problem was more mechanical than aerodynamic so there wasn’t a great deal we could do. To then compound matters, we found ourselves caught out by the yellows just after we had pitted for the second time. It was a tough race all-told, but on the positive side, we brought the car home in one piece and we get to go again straightaway in Toronto.

JONES RETURNS TO TOP TEN WITH ROAD AMERICA CHARGE

JONES RETURNS TO TOP TEN WITH ROAD AMERICA CHARGE

Ed Jones raced hard to secure his fifth top ten finish of an impressive rookie campaign in the fiercely-disputed Verizon IndyCar Series last weekend (23-25 June), with seventh place at Road America vaulting the talented Dubai, UAE-born ace back up the overall championship standings.

Although he had not previously competed around the picturesque four-mile, 14-turn Elkhart Lake road course in IndyCar – unlike 18 of his 21 high-calibre rivals – Jones did race there last year en route to lifting the laurels in Indy Lights, with pole position underscoring his pace and potential. The 22-year-old Brit had also tested there the previous week, and he duly came out-of-the-blocks in fine form in practice, placing seventh in the combined classification as he inched progressively nearer to the outright benchmark.

Despite struggling with tyre-warming issues in qualifying, Jones nonetheless advanced to the ‘Fast 12’ for the second time this season behind the wheel of his 720bhp Dale Coyne Racing Honda single-seater, equalling his best starting position to-date in 11th. In windy conditions the following day, the former European F3 Open Champion began the 55-lap KOHLER Grand Prix well as he settled solidly into the top ten. He would maintain that positive momentum throughout – spending much of the race running in close company with 2012 IndyCar Champion Ryan Hunter-Reay – and after taking the final safety car re-start in ninth, he gained two more places before the chequered flag to cross the finish line seventh.

The result returned Jones to the top ten in the points table at the pinnacle of US open-wheel competition. Buoyed by his strong performance in Wisconsin, he will travel next to Iowa Speedway for a test ahead of the 11th outing on the 2017 IndyCar schedule – the Iowa Corn 300 – on 9 July.

 

Road America is one of my favourite tracks in the United States,” reflected the Williams-Harfield Sports Group protégé, who wore a specially customised helmet for the weekend in tribute to late Chicago Bears NFL star and Dale Coyne Racing co-founder Walter ‘Sweetness’ Payton.

It was good to go back to a road course, and we felt well-prepared after the positive test day there. The team was also competitive at Road America last season, so we had a decent starting point and we were confident we had a good package underneath us and that the circuit should suit us.

Practice went pretty well and we showed encouraging speed all day. The track changed quite a bit in the afternoon session, but we were still fast. The field was really close so we knew qualifying would be tough, but by the same token, there were several areas in which we could improve so I was optimistic of being able to push for the top five.

Unfortunately, the cooler temperatures on Saturday affected a few things, and I struggled to bring the tyres in, which meant it took too long to get up to pace. It was still good to make it into the second round of qualifying, but it left us with some work to do ahead of the race.

The car was loose but fast for qualifying, and it was really loose again on Sunday – I was hanging on throughout the race! Most people went for a similar strategy, but the DCR boys did a great job and some good pit-stops helped us to progress through the field. Everyone was aggressive and it was hard racing, but we came out with a seventh-place finish and moved up a little bit in the points, so we’ll definitely take that.”

JONES SPEEDS TO TOP THREE FINISH ON DAZZLING INDY 500 DEBUT

JONES SPEEDS TO TOP THREE FINISH ON DAZZLING INDY 500 DEBUT

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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