Dubai: Dubai-based Briton Ed Jones labelled a podium finish on his Indy 500 debut on Sunday as “frustrating” because he felt he had the car to win.
The 22-year-old, who began karting in the UAE aged nine, finished third in the 101st edition of the legendary 200-lap race behind winner Takuma Sato of Japan and second-placed Helio Castroneves of Brazil.
Spanish double Formula One world champion Fernando Alonso also skipped the Monaco Grand Prix on Sunday in order to take part in this year’s Indy 500, but was forced to retire with 21 laps remaining due to engine failure.
Not only is it Jones’ best finish in his rookie year in the IndyCar Series, but it is also his team Dale Coyne Racing’s best finish in 11 appearances in this event, known as ‘The Greatest Spectacle in Sport’ — and the first time a UAE flag has flown victorious over the world famous Brickyard oval.
However, if it wasn’t for damage sustained to his car after driving over debris from an earlier accident involving Scott Dixon and Jay Howard on lap 53, Jones, who started from 11th on the grid, feels he could have snatched victory.
“It was a great race for us, I had a great car all month,” he said. “We were running through traffic, but the whole race was so up and down for us.
“It was a solid start, we were running in the top 10-11 for most of the first half. Then when Dixon had his crash, thankfully those guys are OK, but I ran over some debris and it damaged the floor and the rear wing.
“We had to change the rear wing and it sent me to the back of the field, then we had to claw our way back up again. We got some luck back with the last yellow as we pitted right before it, so it put us near the front.
“But then I had some bad luck again, I damaged my front wing and it put a big hole in it, my legs got pretty cold to be honest. I had wind blowing into them like crazy. It also created a lot of drag.
“I was really good catching up to the other guys in the corners but as soon as we got to the straights I couldn’t tow up to them. We just lacked that straight line speed for the last 40 laps. It was very hard for me to defend or attack. Which is frustrating because, we had the car to win today.”
Jones’ initial disappointment will no doubt subside once the enormity of what he has achieved sinks in.
Indy 500 is one of motorsport’s big three events along with F1’s Monaco Grand Prix and the 24 Hours of Le Mans, with champions of all three declared Triple Crown winners. Only Britain’s Graham Hill has achieved the feat to date.
However, even just registering a podium finish in either event is a life-changing achievement especially for a driver as young as Jones, and this will no doubt be a turning point in his career after the initial success of winning the European F3 Open Championship in 2013 and the Indy Lights Series last year.