Dubai-born Ed Jones unleashed an impressive drive in the Iowa Corn 300 as he pulled off almost 70 overtakes to finish 13th on a day when extreme tyre degradation cost him a higher result.
The 23-year-old shrugged off a front wing adjustment to place 10th in the opening free practice session on Saturday, before posting a two-lap average speed of 178.720mph to line up eighth on the grid for the 300-lap race.
Behind the wheel of his Dallara-Honda single-seater, the 2017 IndyCar ‘Rookie of the Year’ subsequently improved again to sixth in final practice, leaving him feeling positive about his race day prospects.
On race day, the former European F3 Open champion stormed his way through from 19th up to seventh by lap 86, but tyre issues restricted him to a frustrating 13th place at the chequered flag.
“It was a tough day in the car,” said Jones, who is being coached this year by multiple IndyCar champion and Indy 500 winner Dario Franchitti. “I felt comfortable in the car for the race, but unfortunately the tyre degradation was much greater than we had expected. I think looking at the results, the teams that tested at Iowa last month really had the upper hand.”
The former Dubai English Speaking College and Dubai College pupil currently sits 13th in the IndyCar Series standings on 222 points, 189 points behind leader Scott Dixon of New Zealand.
Next up for Jones is the Honda Indy Toronto on the downtown streets of the Canadian city this weekend.
Oman’s Al-Faisal Al-Zubair returns to the Red Bull Ring at Spielberg in Austria this weekend to take part in the third round of the Porsche Mobil 1 Super Cup.
The Lechner Racing Team Middle East driver finished 11th in the last round of the Formula One support series competition in Monaco and is keen to add a top-10 finish to his tally on the demanding 4.318km circuit.
Al-Wahaibi will be taking part in his first ever round of the Porsche Mobil 1 Super Cup after earning Silver and Rookie success in the Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Middle East last winter.
Defending champion Michael Ammermuller of Germany currently holds a six-point lead in the championship standings after two rounds, with Al-Faisal Al-Zubair sitting 31 points behind in 14th position.
The Muscat native said: “I am very excited for Austria. I have been on holidays but I have been preparing for the race. It should be a good weekend. The target is a top-10 finish and then we have a double-header in Silverstone the following weekend. Two top-10s would be good.”
Al-Wahaibi added: “I am looking forward to heading back to the Red Bull Ring for my first round of the Porsche Mobil 1 Super Cup. This is the highest level of Porsche racing I could possibly do and I am extremely excited to compete against the best drivers out there and see how the weekend works out.”
The third round of the Porsche Mobil 1 Super Cup takes centre stage on the Red Bull circuit from 12.45 (14:45 UAE time) on Sunday.
Fernando Alonso cemented his status as one of the greatest drivers of his era with a scintillating win at the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
The Spaniard, sharing the Toyota car with Kazuki Nakajima and Sebastien Buemi, won the second leg of motorsport’s Triple Crown to add to his two Monaco GP titles and the Indy 500, which he still seeks.
Sunday’s epic win in northwestern France means Alonso is the first driver in almost 50 years to clinch both the Monaco GP and Le Mans titles – since British legend Graham Hill in 1972.
But it wasn’t all rosy for the Japanese manufacturer in their search of the coveted crown.
Trailing stablemates Toyoto No.7 by 2min 15sec early on Sunday morning, Alonso showed his extraordinary ability to adapt, following two sensational overtaking manouevres to cut the gap to 45 seconds.
It was once again another illustration of his immense talents in a competitive car, passing the duties on to Nakajima, who went on to seal a first win for a Japanese outfit since Mazdaspeed in 1991.
The two-time world champion may still be committed to F1 until the end of the season – but his win in Le Mans adds further debate to what could potentially be his final season before he commits full-time to Indy 500 in 2019.
The Spaniard enjoyed an encouraging debut in Indianapolis last season but engine failure forced him to retire 179 laps into the famous 200 lap race.
With fresh motivation, a return to America next May will give him the chance to complete a historic triple crown.
The Oviedo native will turn 37 next month and if this is his swansong season in F1 before moving on to Indy then it’s difficult to argue what he throws his hand to in his free time.
At it stands, Alonso is dovetailing his F1 commitments with racing in the World Endurance Championships – meaning seven extra races between May and the end of this month – on top of his contracted McLaren work.
From Canada last week to Le Mans and beyond, he will race on five consecutive weekends up until July 8 at Silverstone.
As gruelling as his schedule may sound, the industrious Alonso is clearly happy to have multiple commitments and there is no doubt his win in France will give him renewed optimistic that he can flourish in his 17th competitive year in motorsport.
Formula One may be his priority at present, but the unreliability of the McLaren car is enough to demotivate any driver in the sport.
But for all the problems in the cockpit, Alonso always gives 100 per cent on track, clinching five top-8 finishes in the first seven races this season, with retirements in Monaco and Canada – on his 300th grand prix appearance – adding to his mixed results.
After nearly two decades in F1 and 97 podiums, El Nano looks to have lost none of his appetite and will be bidding to continue his sterling form in Le Mans when he steps out at the French GP next week.
It’s likely to be his final year in F1, but if so, let us hang out our greatest colours in celebration for one of the most successful drivers of our era.