Dubai-based Ed Jones had to settle for 13th place in the Bommarito Automotive Group 500 race but that was enough him to claim the coveted Verizon IndyCar Series’ ‘Sunoco Rookie of the Year’ crown.
The 22-year-old Brit had a strong weekend at the Gateway Motorsports Park in Madison, Illinois. Having clocked the fifth fastest time during practice, he began the race in 12th position despite oversteering in twighlight conditions. Yet, that was enough to see him ahead of contenders Graham Rahal and Ryan Hunter-Reay.
And although the race began under the yellow flag after a driver had spun, Jones showed once again his potential by pushing his rivals close on the track. He continued to be in the mix for a top-10 finish but faded in the later stages as the Dale Coyne Racing driver crossed the chequered flag 13th of out the 21 drivers.
The result saw him claim the Rookie of the Year accolade – the latest achievement for the reigning Indy Light champion, who finished third at the Indy 500 in May.
“We knew the weekend might be a little challenging with our short oval aero package, but we had a solid first practice,” said Jones. “Unfortunately, the conditions then changed significantly before qualifying with the drop in temperature, and that really made a big difference. We had a bit too much oversteer and I had to save the car from spinning a few times, which killed the speed a bit.
“We were still hopeful of being able to move forward from there, but it was a tough race. We ran with a lot of downforce and early on we had some good battles, but later, the pace of the car wasn’t quick enough so it was a bit frustrating. It was a shame I didn’t have the speed at the end, because it was a fantastic event and it was great to see so many fans come out to support us.”
There’s no time to rest for Jones, who will head to New York for the IndyCar Grand Prix at the Glen, this weekend.
Ed Jones ran as high as second at a dramatic ABC Supply 500 at Pocono Raceway on Saturday before a hazard-filled race at the aptly-named Tricky Triangle conspired to drop him to a 17th-placed finish overall.
The 22-year-old Brit had qualified 11th for the race – the 14th of 17 outings in the fiercely-disputed 2017 Verizon IndyCar Series – at the 2.5-mile Pennsylvania oval.
Jones conceded some early ground but swiftly set about fighting back. He was up to eighth – duelling with IndyCar heavyweights Ryan Hunter-Reay and Helio Castroneves – by the time he made his second pit visit just past one-quarter distance.
As is frequently the case at in the US single-seater competition, the pecking order oscillated wildly as various issues and dramas brought out the yellow flags, sending drivers scurrying for the pits and playing havoc with strategy calls – and on this occasion, Jones did not enjoy the rub of the green.
The former European F3 Open Champion reached second place at one stage – picking off the likes of oval specialist Ed Carpenter and pole-sitter Takuma Sato along the way – but a mistake entering his pit box at his final stop relegated him to the tail of the field.
“Pocono Raceway certainly lived up to its nickname,” said the Dubai-born Dale Coyne Racing (DCR) protégé.
“It’s fast and quite a difficult track, but DCR had been really strong on circuits like that earlier in the season, so I was confident we would have a good idea of what we needed when we got there and I was really looking forward to it.
“Our plan was always to go conservative in qualifying, because looking at the bigger picture, there can be a lot of consequences for not a lot of gain – and it had been proved in the past that grid position is not necessarily one of the major factors at Pocono.
“Eleventh represented a solid place to start from and I was optimistic of being able to move forward, but unfortunately, it was a difficult race. The approach we took meant it was really hard to progress without errors from the cars in front, which made things challenging.
“That said, it was fun in parts; some guys were quite aggressive and there were a few crazy moves, so I was adjusting to that and we had a good run, but we were pretty unlucky with the timing of the yellows.
“We were still looking alright towards the end, but then I made a mistake at my last pit-stop and that cost us. It’s just frustrating, because I feel we should have come away with a decent result.”
Reigning Indy Lights Champion Jones was making his debut at the track, whereas 18 of his 21 rivals had competed before.
Jones was Immediately on the back foot following a spin and light contact with the wall in free practice.
As strong winds resulted in a number of incidents in qualifying, Jones outpaced championship leader Josef Newgarden and several other big names on his way to 11th.
Jones went on to take the chequered flag a disappointed 17th, and will be fired-up to bounce back quickly at round 15 at Gateway Motorsports Park this weekend.
Tara Eichenberger may just be a few months shy of her 15th birthday, but she has all the makings of a professional race driver set to take the world of Formula 4 by storm.
The Dubai-based Swiss teen started karting when she was nine-years old, but since then she has shown her mettle in various competitions in UAE and Europe. She was even the only female in the top 50 of the world ranking for Junior Kart racing drivers in 2016.
She took some time out from her busy schedule to sit down with Sport360° for a cup of coffee and talk animatedly about her life, challenges and aspirations.
I turn 15 on October 16 and my family moved to Dubai when I was seven years old. I started karting when I was nine. I go to the American school and just finished grade ten. I speak fluent German and English, and now I am learning Italian because a lot of people in motorsports speak Italian, so I am learning to ease communication.
Well, actually it is a very interesting story. When we first moved to Dubai, we used to play golf at the Montgomerie club. So while my parents were busy playing golf, my sister and I would always sneak off and start driving the golf karts. My sister was six and I was nine, so we were really small. One of us would press the pedals, while the other steered – that was really fun.
We always drove around things while no one was looking and fortunately we never got in to any trouble or got injured. Afterwards, my dad took me to the indoor kart dome. As my sister was really young, I started driving the rented karts. There was an outdoor circuit as well, but you had to be 13 to drive there or you would have to have your own kart – which I didn’t.
So my dad told me that if I was able to beat a certain time, which was very competitive, then he would get me my own kart. I just kept working hard and eventually beat that time, so my dad got me my first kart. That’s how it all began.
The biggest challenge I have faced so far is the lack of funds. Due to financial constraints, my parents were unable to provide me the best of materials, team or mechanic, but they do try their best and also try to be as cost effective as possible.
In Formula 4, or motorsports in general, you need a very skilled team who will maintain your car every day. They will literally take it apart and put it back together. So you require a lot of money and this is why we are in the process of looking for sponsors to help me get the resources I need to enter Formula 4.
I always had to fight for what I wanted and even when I was racing, I realised that I was racing under more challenging circumstances than my competitors. Funny thing is that when I did have the same materials as my competitors, I was actually as good and fast as them and sometimes, even better. So, I was never lacking in talent.
My dad believed that I should race more experienced drivers, so last year I was 13 and I was competing against 15-year olds. I started when I was nine, so even then I was racing against 12-year olds. I have always competed with drivers who are more experienced than me and that helped me learn more and understand racing tactics better.
Another thing is that I am a girl and I am in a male dominated sport. So one thing I have realised is that boys do not like it when you beat their butts.
So whenever there’s a race, they would push you till you’re completely out and they will be more aggressive to you than with other boys for some strange reason.
However, as soon as you would start fighting back and do the same thing to them they will start respecting you and then you will just be another person racing.
But before you get that it’s really difficult and when you try to push them off they complain saying ‘You can’t do that’. But I am always like, ‘You do it to me so I will do it to you’.
Definitely. I have learned a lot over the years. I know Formula 4 is a lot different and there will be a lot of changes I will need to adapt to. But I do believe that whatever knowledge I have gathered I will be able to apply it to Formula 4.
How do you train and is there a special endurance training you have to go through to prepare for races?
For training, my upper body is very important, so I do special exercises that focus on my shoulders and neck muscles. I incorporate it with gym exercises and reaction tests.
Our aim is to have the fastest reactions and also do exercises that improve our focus. In a race, you need to be vigilant and react really fast to something. One of our exercises to help enhance our reaction times and concentration: we would kneel on a yoga ball and sit up straight.
You have to maintain your balance while your instructor will ask you to count till 100 or they will throw something at you and you will have to catch it or you will practice steering.
Before I race I always have this inner urge to prove to myself. My competition is with myself and not with anyone else because when you race, it is just you and your car, and no one else.