Dubai-based Ed Jones has signalled his intent in the build-up to his maiden Verizon IndyCar Series campaign, by outpacing some of the championship’s biggest-hitters during the first official pre-season test at Phoenix Raceway.
As part of his preparation, the 22-year-old travelled to the 1.022-mile Arizona oval for three days of running behind the wheel of his Honda-powered single-seater.
As the series’ only full-time rookie, the first of those days saw Jones enjoy almost exclusive use of the track, before he was joined by 20 high-calibre rivals for four sessions of daytime and evening action.
The latter in particular was significant, given that the Phoenix Grand Prix on 29 April – the fourth of 17 outings on the 2017 IndyCar schedule – will take place under floodlights.
Working closely with his race-winning engineer Michael Cannon, Jones completed just shy of 300 laps in total, steering clear of trouble as a number of his adversaries came into contact with the circuit walls.
More notably, Jones wrapped up the opening session in ninth position on the time-sheets, behind DCR team-mate Sébastien Bourdais – one of the most successful drivers in US open-wheel history – and ahead of defending title-holder Simon Pagenaud, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Scott Dixon and multiple Indianapolis 500 winner Helio Castroneves.
The former European F3 Open Champion continued to lap competitively throughout the test, and with the curtain-raising Grand Prix of St. Petersburg now less than a month away, he is confident of making his mark when the season gets underway in earnest.
“It was a very positive and productive test, and I think we offered a glimpse of our potential,” said Jones. “The Rookie Day was really useful, as it gave me the opportunity to get to grips with the IndyCar on an oval for the first time and get up-to-speed before everybody else joined the track.
“We covered a lot of laps, and that hard work paid off with the ninth-fastest time the next afternoon. I was actually up in P2 for much of the session and whilst it’s impossible to read anything into it at this stage because you don’t know what programmes or strategies different teams are running, it was very cool – and, I must admit, a little surreal – to see my name on the timing screens ahead of people like Pagenaud, Hunter-Reay, Dixon and Castroneves.
“The focus for me was on getting used to the traffic and following other cars in the dirty air, as well as pit-stop practice, which is not something I’ve had to deal with before.
“I clearly still have some catching up to do, but the key will be to make sure we maximise our final test at Sebring at the end of this month and step it up another level.
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