Dubai-born star Ed Jones produced a stunning rookie performance to finish third at the 101st edition of the Indy 500 in Indianapolis on Sunday afternoon.
The 22-year-old, who started 11th in the fourth row, showed skill and know-how that belied his young years as he secured a podium spot for Dale Coyne Racing at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway circuit.
It was an historic drive for Jones on his debut at the ‘Greatest Spectacle in Racing’, with the Brit finishing just behind three-time champion Helio Castroneves in second and overall race winner Takuma Sato.
“It was a great race for me and I’ve had a great car for the whole past month,” Jones, who still has a base in the UAE and is expected to return to the Emirate in September, said.
“The race was a learning experience and I gained so much from the drive and how I made passes. Throughout the race I mixed it up quite a bit against Helio but he was the one car I couldn’t really defend against.
“He was quick but it’s great to have acknowledgment from a driver like him that I drove well – hopefully we’ll be racing next year (against each other for the title).”
Andretti Autosport driver Sato, who started in fourth position on the grid, is the first driver from Japan to triumph in America’s historic competition.
The 40-year-old also became the oldest winner since Eddie Cheever in 1998 and made amends for his heartbreaking and close-run defeat in 2012.
“It’s an unbelievable feeling, I can’t describe it. I want to thank my team,” he told media after completing 500 miles (200 laps) of the famed 2.5 mile long track the fastest.
“It was obviously a tough, tough race but it was fantastic to be out there – I hope the crowd enjoyed it.”
Meanwhile, two-time Formula One champion Fernando Alonso was forced out on his debut Indy 500 appearance with just 20 laps to go due to engine failure.
The 35-year-old produced a near-perfect drive for McLaren-branded Andretti Autosport and led the field on several occasions.
Alonso received a standing ovation from the capacity 300,000 crowd as mechanics helped their star driver off the track.
“It’s been one of the best experiences of my career,” Alonso, who skipped the Monte Carlo Grand Prix to race in the United States, said.
“It’s very nice to race here and prove I can compete against some of the best drivers and be competitive. If I come back, I know I will come back with something.”
The other major incident of the race involved pole sitter and 2008 champion Scott Dixon, who fortunately escaped unhurt in a spectacular crash.
Britain’s Jay Howard bounced off the outside wall near turn one on lap 53 and slid into Dixon’s vehicle, sending it careening into the air and sliding along a guardrail on the inside of the track, a burst of flame shooting from the back end.
Both drivers soon climbed out from their cars.