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Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 20 July 2018

Ed Jones interview: ‘Pretty crazy’ to be racing against Fernando Alonso at Indianapolis 500

In an interview ahead of his Indianapolis 500 debut, the Dubai-born driver shares his thoughts on the presence of Fernando Alonso at the race and his own ambitions.
Ed Jones is making his Indianapolis 500 debut this weekend. Christian Petersen / Getty Images
Ed Jones is making his Indianapolis 500 debut this weekend. Christian Petersen / Getty Images

Given the amount of attention that has surrounded double Formula One world champion Fernando Alonso since it was announced he was coming to compete at Sunday’s Indianapolis 500, you could be forgiven for thinking he is the only driver in the field and there are not another 32 racers competing as well.

But Dubai-born Ed Jones, 22, who like Alonso, is making his debut in the event, said it is great for the IndyCar Series to have the Spaniard taking time away from F1 for one weekend to compete with Andretti Autosport.

“At the end of the day when you are on the track you just treat him like any other driver,” the Briton said.

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Read more

■ Jenson Button: ‘Surprised’ by Alonso’s decision to opt for Indy500

■ From Jebel Ali to Indy: Ed Jones at home on North America’s Oval tracks

■ Daniel Ricciardo: Needs to get season track at Monaco Grand Prix

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“Obviously he has achieved a huge amount and I respect everything he’s done. He’s a former double F1 champion and I rate him as the best driver in F1. It is great for IndyCar and the sport as a whole and will draw more attention to the race.

“After last year’s hundredth running it is hard to believe that it could get any bigger, but Alonso has drawn in loads of people to the sport.”

The Indianapolis 500 is made up of 200 laps of the oval track at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in the United States to make up a distance of 500 miles, with the cars hitting speeds of around 370kph around the track.

Since it was first held in 1911, it has become established as one of the most renowned events on the motorsport calendar, and for Jones, who grew up in the UAE in Dubai, taking part in the race where he will start from 11th, is a surreal feeling.

“I got into watching IndyCar racing around 2010,” Jones said. “Before then I was mainly watching F1 because it was easily available in Dubai on TV, but then I started watching the Indy 500, so it’s pretty special to be racing alongside some of the guys I watched when I was growing up.

“Like my teammate Sebastian Bourdais and Juan Pablo Montoya, I watched these guys when I was 10 or younger, and of course Fernando Alonso. To be racing against these guys is pretty crazy.”

Of how things are looking for the race and his chances of challenging at the front, Jones added: “The car felt really strong from the get go and the team has done a lot of work to make the car quicker.

“They have made it faster than we expected, but it is frustrating as we were close to getting into the top nine [for the qualifying shoot-out for pole position], but I’m pleased to be starting 11th.”

Jones left Dubai, where his family still reside, to race in the United States in 2015 with Carlin Motorsport.

After winning the 2016 Indy Lights championship, he earned a spot in the IndyCar Series, the leading open-wheel championship in North America, with Dale Coyne Racing.

After six races of the season, Jones is 13th in the championship, with his best result being sixth at Long Beach in April.

Treating it as part of a learning curve, he is confident there is more to come in the remaining 11 races of the season after Sunday.

“The year has gone really well so far, for the rest of the year we’re going to try and build on every race and every experience and try and get better each time,” he said.

“I’d like to be regularly finishing in the top five and I think that’s possible, so some strong finishes and maybe a podium would be our target. The main focus now is on Sunday and getting a strong result — achieve that, then we can focus on the rest of the season.”

Q&A with Ed Jones

Q: How did you get into racing when you were growing up in Dubai?

A: “I started go-karting when I was four at Jebel Ali kart track and at the time there were very few kids racing. It was basically me driving around, and there just wasn’t enough people in Dubai doing it which actually made it very hard to progress. I was winning all the races but I wasn’t learning a lot because there wasn’t really any competition, which was not the case in the UK where there were so many kids all over the country racing. The level of ability and the way in which they progress is so much faster.”

Have things changed in Dubai since you started karting?

“It’s amazing to see how much the sport has grown in Dubai since I started. It’s way bigger now and there are some really good kids coming through. I did all of my go-kart racing in Dubai until I was 13, then I started doing some racing in Europe and moved into racing cars when I was 15.”

Do you get to visit Dubai much these days?

“My parents still live there and they are actually flying over to Indianapolis for the race. In the off-season I get to go home but during the season it is too difficult. For example, after the Indy 500 we have three back-to-back race weekends, so the season is pretty full-on and with the time it takes to get there combined with the time difference, it’s not appropriate to go back too often.”

What is living and racing in America like and what are your future racing plans?

“Overall the racing in America is a lot more pure than it is in Europe and the tracks are not very forgiving, you make a mistake and you get punished for it. In comparison to European racing where there’s so much run-off on the circuits so you can make a mistake and you can get away with it, so it is a lot more rewarding when you get it right. IndyCar is a lot more competitive than Formula One; you can have a chance of winning with a smaller team which makes the racing and the overall package more exciting and with the variety of tracks and places you get to experience it is great and I hope to stay here as long as possible.”

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