Dubai: UAE-based Briton Ed Jones secured the 2016 Indy Lights championship at Laguna Seca in Monteray, California, last weekend, earning a guaranteed drive in Indianapolis 500 next season.
Six contenders came into the final round of the 11-stage series with a mathematical chance of winning, but before the second of two races it was reduced to two, after Jones came from second in the grid to win race one.
Having entered the weekend just a point behind Uruguay’s Santiago Urrutia in the standings, the 21-year-old Brit withstood pressure from Zach Veach, who was never more than a second behind.
The victory gave the 2013 European F3 Open Champion his eighth podium of the year, but more significantly, it turned a one-point deficit into an eight-point lead heading into the final race.
His second-best qualifying time secured him his eighth pole position of the campaign for the second race, but he quickly fell to fifth at the start.
With Urrutia in second, the pair were tied on points and had things stayed that way the Uruguayan would have taken the title on a countback, but Jones fought back to fourth to edge the title.
In addition to the trophy, Jones also earned himself a $1 million scholarship in the Verison IndyCar series and a spot on next year’s Indianapolis 500 grid.
“What an amazing feeling,” he said. “I think it’s fair to say this season has been one of the hardest ever in Indy Lights, with such a high calibre of drivers and teams and seven different race winners.
“Santi in particular has been a fierce rival all year — we’ve enjoyed some fantastic racing and it’s been a really close and exciting battle for the title.
“Although the stakes were obviously sky-high, I tried to treat it like any other race weekend and not get caught up in the emotion of it all. We focused firmly on the job in hand, which was to score more points than Urrutia, and that’s exactly what we achieved.
“It will be a dream come true to line up on the Indy 500 grid. It’s the biggest race in the world, and I really don’t think the reality has sunk in yet. Our target is to context for the full season and we will work hard to accomplish that.”