Dubai-born driver Ed Jones competed in the Verizon IndyCar Series competition last weekend (June 3 and 4) and charged through the field to tally his fourth top ten finish from eight starts in the opening half of the ‘Dual in Detroit’, only to then register the first DNF of his rookie campaign the following day.
The lone double-header on the 2017 IndyCar schedule, the Detroit Grand Prix is held around the 2.35-mile, 14-turn Raceway at Belle Isle Park – a bumpy temporary street course widely regarded as one of the most physical and demanding venues on the calendar.
To add to the challenge, 16 of his 21 high-calibre rivals had previously led laps at the track – six of them, indeed, had reached the top step of the podium there – while Jones had never previously set eyes upon the Michigan-based circuit.
That disadvantage initially showed as the reigning Indy Lights Champion struggled throughout practice, languishing towards the wrong end of the order behind the wheel of his 720bhp Dallara-Honda single-seater at the pinnacle of US open-wheel competition.
The same theme continued in qualifying on Saturday as he could manage no better than 21st on the grid, but in front of an estimated 100,000 audience in the race, Jones dug deep and exploited an excellent strategy from Dale Coyne Racing to make up an eye-catching 12 positions, with only one car failing to reach the chequered flag.
The key to his progression was pitting just twice when the majority of the field opted to make three stops, and after staving off some late-race pressure, the 22-year-old Brit crossed the finish line in ninth, well ahead of new team-mate Esteban Gutiérrez – a man with three seasons in Formula 1 on his impressive CV.
From 17th on the grid in race two the next day – following a significantly truncated qualifying session – Jones again went on the attack, climbing as high as eighth before his second pit-stop as he indulged in battles with defending IndyCar title-holder Simon Pagenaud and multiple Indianapolis 500 winner Hélio Castroneves.
Unfortunately, contact with JR Hildebrand at the midway stage prompted an unscheduled extra pit visit for a new front wing, dropping the former European F3 Open Champion to the very back of the pack, a lap down.
Things then went from bad to worse with just over ten laps to go when he overshot Turn Seven and stalled his engine in the run-off-area. With the Holmatro Safety Team unable to get the #19 entry going again, Jones’ difficult day came to a premature conclusion.
With little time to rest, the Williams-Harfield Sports Group protégé will return to the track this coming weekend (June 9 and 10) under the spotlights of Texas Motor Speedway, fully intent on moving up from his current 11th spot in the drivers’ classification, a single point shy of the top ten.
“Having performed well at the first couple of street courses this year, we travelled to Detroit aiming to continue that trend and score some important points,” he mused. “That said, I was fully anticipating a tough weekend physically, especially considering I hadn’t had a lot of time to train over the last few weeks.
“Friday was a really tough day. Belle Isle was the first circuit this year where I didn’t have any prior experience, and learning it was more difficult than those I’ve been on in the past. You really have to attack it with confidence and if I’m being honest, after a few weeks of oval driving, I didn’t do a good enough job to prepare to get back to a street course and didn’t drive particularly well, which was reflected in Saturday’s qualifying result.
“I made big steps each time I took to the track, though, and as I gained more experience and felt more comfortable, I was able to attack more. We picked the right strategy in Saturday’s race and the car was really strong, allowing me to do some overtaking and maintain consistent lap times throughout the stints, so that was a confidence-inspiring result.
“Sunday, unfortunately, was less so. We tried a different strategy but it didn’t quite work out, and then obviously the contact sent us to the back, which is what really ruined our race. It was frustrating to pick up our first non-finish of the season, but those will happen in my rookie campaign at some point and we’re already working hard to get ready for Texas.”
Attention adrenaline hunters! BOUNCE, the trampoline phenomenon and home of the Free Jumping Revolution, is set to launch its X-Park Adventure Challenge Course in Dubai this week.
The new X-Park Adventure Challenge Course will open to the public on Thursday June 8 at the Al Quoz-based BOUNCE Dubai venue, offering a real action-packed adrenaline experience, suitable for all ages and abilities.
Measuring over 330m2 in size and split over two levels, the monstor new X-Park Adventure Challenge Course will feature over 20 elements, including a zip line, bouldering wall and a sea of pipes.
Designed to offer different levels of difficulty to allow for personal progression and creative expression, the aim of the game is to make your way from the start to the end of the course in the fastest (and as BOUNCE puts it, awesome way possible).
X-Park Adventure Challenge Course is a free-style playground incorporating 20 different elements giving you the most addictive adrenaline rush around.
With the addition of parkour, that has been designed to provide challenge and diversity, hardcore free-running masters can push their physical limits, whilst first-timers can master the basics with a choice of wacky obstacles.
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Defending Champion Gregory Gaultier will head to the PSA Dubai World Series Finals as the in-form man after winning his last six world tour titles since finishing runner-up at January’s Tournament of Champions in New York.
The 34-year-old has won his last six world tour titles since finishing runner-up at January’s Tournament of Champions in New York.
His unbeaten run, which could stretch to over 30 matches when the action commences in Dubai from June 6-10, has seen him return to top spot in April’s PSA world rankings, as well as stretch his record as the sport’s oldest world No 1.
The Frenchman, who is now number 2 in the world, qualified second in the PSA Road to Dubai standings, and says he will now look to replicate last year’s sizzling form in the emirate.
Gaultier said: “I’ve had an amazing run since January and of course I want to finish the season on a high note as well in Dubai and hopefully perform the best I can.
“There’s no secret, it’s all about hard work. I’ve been training hard for 30 years. My motivation this year came from the frustration I had in 2016, missing so many events through injury.
“That really fired me up, but I’ve also been able to relax myself on court and that’s allowed me to play better squash and I feel better for it.”
Only the top eight ranked men’s and women’s players in the PSA Road to Dubai rankings qualified to contest the season-ending PSA Dubai World Series Finals.
Two round robin groups of four will contest the $160,000 Finals at Dubai Opera and Gaultier will have his work cut out in perhaps the toughest of the four quartets.
With only two players qualifying for the semi-finals, Gaultier will be up against three former world No 1’s in Ramy Ashour, Mohamed ElShorbagy and James Willstrop in the best-of-three format.
“It’s an intense sport and the key is the recovery I do between matches and between events with my team,” added Gaultier.
The 2015 world champion dropped only two games on his way to the Dubai title last year, performing brilliantly in front of his wife and son.
He added: ““Winning there last year – on my first time in Dubai – was amazing. I had a really unique moment with my kid coming on court to celebrate with me – that moment will live in my memory forever.
“They’re coming with me again this year so hopefully they will bring me that good luck again.”
Tickets for the World Series Finals can be purchased at dubaiopera.etixdubai.com.
The PSA Dubai World Series Finals takes place from June 6-10, 2017 with the tournament match schedule to be announced on Monday June 5. All of the action will be shown live on SQUASHTV (rest of world) and Eurosport Player (Europe only).
Group stage matches will take place at 3:00pm, 3:45pm, 16:45pm and 17:30pm (Group A) and 21:30pm, 22:15pm, 23:15pm and 00:00am (Group B) between June 6-8 with the semi-finals due to take place from 21:30pm on June 9. The finals will commence at 21:30pm on June 10.