Jones enhances title credentials with early testing form
 February 19, 2016| 
  • Team News

Ed Jones has come out-of-the-blocks firing on all cylinders in the battle for the 2016 Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires crown, lapping fastest on the first official test day of the year in what he described as the ‘perfect start to our pre-season build-up’ – before promising that there is plenty more pace and potential yet to unlock. 

Jones was the architect of a truly outstanding rookie campaign stateside in 2015, stunning the US racing fraternity by tallying a hat-trick of Indy Lights victories straight off the bat and going into the final race in contention for the drivers’ title.
 

The talented Dubai, UAE-based ace ultimately wound up a highly commendable third, but he has his eyes on the prize as he returns to the fiercely-contested open-wheel series with single-seater powerhouse Carlin. Topping the timesheets on the first day of testing at Homestead-Miami Speedway in Florida – in a strong field that included the reigning FIA F3 European Champion and Macau Grand Prix winner and last year’s Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires titleist – laid down an impressive marker. 

“It was very positive and very productive,” he confirmed. “We got through a lot of work with a sequence of long and short runs and right from the outset, both the team and myself settled straight back into the groove. The car performed faultlessly throughout and we were able to bank a significant amount of useful data.
 
“We were quick and consistent from the get-go, which is exactly where we wanted to be – although pushing flat-out was never on our agenda; it was all about evaluating different set-ups and gathering as much information as possible. The lap times we set came pretty easily, which is very encouraging – the perfect start to our pre-season build-up.
 
“Homestead also allowed us to get an initial gauge of the opposition in Indy Lights this year and who is likely to be up at the sharp end. It’s clearly going to be another very tough season, but every championship is tough at the top and all we can do is focus on ourselves, give it 100 per cent and go into it in the best shape we can possibly be. As long as we do that, it doesn’t really matter who we are up against. We just need to make sure we get the job done.”
 
An expanded schedule of 18 races in 2016 will include three ovals, three street circuits and five road course events on the Verizon IndyCar Series-supporting Indy Lights calendar, beginning at St. Petersburg in Florida on 12/13 March and incorporating new additions Phoenix, Road America and Boston along the way. 
 
Embracing the challenge and having ramped up his physical training over the winter, Jones admits he feels infinitely more prepared heading into his sophomore campaign than he did this time 12 months ago. Back then, both he and Carlin were newcomers to the US racing scene having hitherto competed predominantly in Europe – meaning they had to rapidly find their feet.
 
If the title is his target over the forthcoming months, further down the line, the 21-year-old Brit has his sights firmly set on advancing to the pinnacle of the Mazda Road to Indy ladder – IndyCar. A head-turning test outing for Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing last August whetted Jones’ appetite, and he knows there would be no better way to secure his graduation than by lifting the Indy Lights laurels.
 
“Everything was new to me in 2015,” acknowledged the Williams-Harfield Sports Group protégé and former European F3 Open Champion. “I had to get to grips with all the circuits from scratch, and with the team being new to US racing too and limited testing, there was a certain element of guesswork at the beginning of each race weekend but we made tremendous strides over the course of the campaign. Carlin put so much effort into their US programme and did a fantastic job – but for a team of their calibre and expertise, that was never really in any doubt.
 
“The ovals were definitely an eye-opener! They demand a completely different mindset, approach and driving style to anything I’d previously encountered – it was almost a case of mentally un-learning everything I’d ever been taught and starting afresh, and every time I took to the track, I tried to learn a little bit more.
 

“Inevitably, we had some ups-and-downs and I feel we were unfortunate to finish just third in the championship after some bad luck late on, but that will only serve to motivate us even more in 2016. I get on really well with the Carlin boys, and the benefit of continuity on that front cannot be underestimated. There’s a lot more to learn and plenty of potential yet to tap, but there’s no reason at all why we can’t fight for the title again – and that is unquestionably our goal. 

“Beyond that, the objective for 2017 has to be IndyCar itself and in that respect, the support network offered by the Mazda Road to Indy is vital. The scholarships available mean that if you shine, you have the opportunity to progress to the next level – in Europe, even if you win every junior single-seater category around, there are no guarantees and you still need pretty deep pockets if you want to reach the top.
 
“I’m really enjoying the whole American adventure, and it was amazing to be given the chance to test an IndyCar so early on in my US racing career. It didn’t feel that big a jump – it all came quite naturally, to be honest – so with another year’s experience under my belt, I think I’ll be ready to take that step.”
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