Edward Jones, the Dubai-based British national who is harbouring ambitions of securing a Formula One seat sometime in the future, went fourth fastest on the second and final day of pre-season testing of the FIA Formula 3 European Championship at the 4.326km Red Bull Ring in Austria last week.
The 11-round championship comprising of 33 races gets under way on April 20 at Silverstone in the United Kingdom, and Jones has been preparing for the series in Europe for the past several weeks, which included the pre-season tests.
Max Verstappen went fastest at 1:23.690 minutes while Jones was not too far behind in fourth in a time of 1:24.296mins.
Interestingly, Jones was one of 25 young drivers who set lap times faster than the existing Formula 3 lap record of 1:25.921min, established by Felix Rosenqvist last year.
Jones is the reigning Formula 3 European Open Champion, having won the title last season, also securing two podiums in Formula Renault Eurocup in 2013.
The Dubai based youngster races for Carlin, formerly Carlin Motorsport, a racing team based in the United Kingdom. Carlin compete in five championships — British Formula 3 Championship, GP3 Series, World Series by Renault and GP2 Series.
In total, 30 outstanding young drivers and 12 teams will be competing for the F3 European Championship title, racing at the highest level.
And like Jones, all these drivers have one clear goal- making it into Formula 1.
Jones though says that his immediate priority is to concentrate on the current season with a view to delivering the best results possible and hopefully secure a GP2 Series on his way to fulfilling his F1 ambitions.
The championship will be run on a number of F1 circuits worldwide.
Sport 360° exclusively sit down with UAE's motorsport driver, Karim Al Azhari to discuss his many achievements in a racing car and find out about his passions outside the track.
Born: Abu Dhabi, UAE
Motorsport: Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge
Middle East Team: Al Nabooda Racing
Car: Porsche 911 GT3 CUP
Sponsor: Al Nabooda Automobiles, Porsche Centre Dubai, ANIB
Years in the sport: 20
Titles/podiums: UAE GT Champion 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011; Gulf Radical Cup Champion 2005, 2006
Favourite childhood memory of motorsport: Karting
Favourite driver/rider growing up: Michael Schumacher
Best driver/biker/karter at the moment: Fernando Alonso
Other sports you have played: None
Greatest achievement in any sport: Multiple champion in circuit racing
Favourite meal: Lasagna
Favourite place in the UAE: My home on the Palm Jumeirah
Piers Pakenham-Walsh is 17 and has been racing go-karts at various circuits in the UAE ever since he was 8 years old. The Dubai-based teen, originally from Manchester in the UK, is keen to take up motorsport as a profession but like most of his tribe, the youngster is finding it difficult to secure the necessary sponsorship. But Piers tells Sport360° that he has already started looking at an alternative profession if his professional racing dreams do not materialise.
At what age did you take up motorsport? And what inspired you to take it up?
I have always had an interest in cars, and after my first visit to an indoor karting track at the age of five I was immediately hooked. That was the only inspiration I needed, I was well and truly bitten by the motorsport bug! Once I turned eight, I got my first ever kart and that was when I started competitive racing.
Who has been your role model in motorsport?
I never really had a particular role model when growing up in the sport; I just usually looked up to the quick boys in the older classes and tried to learn as much as I could from them.
Do you treat motorsport as just a hobby or as a competive sport ?
It was originally a hobby, but now I’m certainly in the sport to be competitive. Almost every weekend I’m racing, testing or working on my kart; so it’s a full time commitment that you need to stick to if you want to be out there winning races.
It is well-known that motorsport is an expensive sport. How do you go about financing yourself? Have you found a sponsor?
The finance for my racing is provided entirely by my parents, and that’s the way it has always been. Sponsorship is very difficult to obtain at any level in motorsport. I have been fortunate enough that my parents have been able to continue to fund my racing, but I am always searching for possible sponsors to help further my career.
Do you aspire to have a career in motorsport?
Making a career out of motorsport is what I’m aiming to do. To become a professional driver would be the ultimate goal, but without sufficient funding from sponsors it’s very difficult. I’m beginning to gain experience as a mechanic/ race technician working on Radical Sportscars, to help build another path for myself into the motorsport world. I’d like to be able to secure sponsorship to help fund a move into racing cars here in the UAE, either in the Formula Gulf 1000 or the Radical Middle East Cup; and it’s something I’m working on.
How do you rate the motorsport facilities here in the UAE?
The facilities in the UAE for motorsport are fantastic. We now have four kart tracks on the race calendar in the UAE and each track presents a different challenge, which makes for a great championship to develop your skills in. Although the facilities will aid driver development to an extent, there is limited competition as opposed to racing in Europe, and if you’re not being challenged then it’s difficult to improve.
What needs to be done to encourage and popularise motorsport in the UAE, both with the Emiratis and the expat population?
In order to get people interested in something you first need to let them know it exists. I think more needs to be done to advertise motorsport in the country, because I believe that if people knew about the events that were taking place they would certainly come and enjoy the sport as much as we do. I’m sure there is a lot more untapped racing talent in the UAE- it just needs to be found and showcased.