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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 17 October 2018

From Dubai to Miami: Ed Jones sets sights on IndyCar future

Gar Meenaghan talks to Dubai-born racing sensation Ed Jones about his new life in Miami and his goals of racing in IndyCar.
Ed Jones, pictured on top of the podium after winning the Formula 3 European Open championship, is making a name for himself in the United States. Courtesy: Ed Jones
Ed Jones, pictured on top of the podium after winning the Formula 3 European Open championship, is making a name for himself in the United States. Courtesy: Ed Jones

Dubai-born racing driver Edward Jones says his new surroundings remind him of a TV serial killer.

Such an observation might be disconcerting for a 20 year old who has just moved abroad from the family home on Palm Jumeirah, yet such is the Briton’s enthusiasm for the months and years ahead, the observation only serves to excite him further.

“Miami is a really great city,” he said by phone from his new apartment in South Florida.

“It’s kind of like Dubai in that it is very multicultural. However, there are also some very big differences, too, and it’s nice to have that change.

“Plus, I keep seeing all these buildings that I recognise from [the TV series] Dexter, so it’s cool.”

Last month, Jones moved to Miami – home to television’s blood-splatter expert turned vigilante killer Dexter Morgan – to prepare for his first season competing in Indy Lights, the feeder series to IndyCar.

He is determined to flourish and has been training so intensely that his overworked immune system this week left him feeling under the weather.

The former Dubai College student is teammates at Carlin Motorsport with Max Chilton, the former Formula One driver who raced for Marussia last season. Driving a Mazda MZR-R-powered Dallara IL-15, Jones has beaten Chilton in each of the team’s previous six tests.

Yet it is less of a reflection on Chilton than an indication of his teammate’s speed.

Last month, Jones finished fastest of the 12-car field in three of the four sessions at Florida’s Homestead road course, despite it being his first time testing Indy Lights and only his second time on the circuit.

“For Max, a lot of people think coming down a series is a lot easier,” said Jones, the 2013 European F1 Open champion.

“But I find it easier to jump into a faster car than a slower one because, although it is technically harder because it is faster, everything on the car is better – brakes, handling, downforce. That said, it’s different for everyone.”

Jones, whose parents are British, had raced under a UAE flag in previous championships, but this year he will represent Great Britain after growing frustrated at the lack of support he received in his country of birth. Carlin Motorsport are the only British team in the series.

“I’ve represented the UAE for pretty much my whole career, but I’ve switched to the UK this season for various reasons,” he said.

“It’s always been a challenge to get backing from the UAE, but it’s to be expected – motorsport is still relatively new to the country, and it will take time for businesses to realise the potential of supporting someone such as myself to F1.

“Hopefully, in the near future others following my route will get the opportunity.”

Like all young drivers, Jones had grown up imagining a career in F1, and having competed in F3 alongside Max Verstappen – the 17 year old who will this year race with Toro Rosso – he was knocking at the door for a race seat.

Pragmatism, however, took over and he opted to change his focus. F1, much criticised in recent years for its increasing reliance on pay drivers, is no longer as attractive as it once was.

“Every racing driver’s dream is Formula One, but the way the sport is going with the politicising and the sponsorships, it is not enough to only have talent anymore,” Jones said.

“And even if you do get a seat in F1, staying there is very difficult, too, so I decided that Indy Lights was a better option.

“It has proven to be a reliable route into IndyCar and it can help provide me a long career in motorsport, which is the objective.”

The decision is very much in keeping with the recent perception that interest in Formula One is at risk of dwindling courtesy of its willingness to follow the money at the expense of its six decades of racing tradition.

Germany, despite being the home of constructors’ champions Mercedes-Benz and recent four-time world champion Sebastian Vettel, is suffering from such a drop in attendances it could be about to fall off the calendar for the first time since 1960.

With that in mind, Jones’s mature approach must be admired. When he competes at the Indianapolis Speedway on March 22, Indy Lights will be a support race of the Indy 500, meaning the stands surrounding the famous oval could be filled with more than 100,000 spectators to watch his race.

“I think we’ll see more and more European drivers coming over to the States because there are so many more opportunities here,” he said.

“I figured it was best to get over here as soon as possible and get the jump before it starts getting more prevalent.

“There is going to be a big movement of drivers over to here, so it’s good to get that advantage now.”

Jones returns to the car next Wednesday for testing in Louisiana before his final session in Alabama a week later.

After that, it is time for lights out: The first race of the 2015 season takes place on the weekend of March 28-29 in Saint Petersburg, Florida.

Lining the grid, Jones will hope to show, like Dexter, his killer instinct.

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