Recently-crowned 2016 Indy Lights Champion Ed Jones is set to wind back the clock this week, as he returns to his karting roots with a one-off appearance in the end-of-season Rotax MAX Challenge Grand Finals at Sarno in southern Italy.
Prior to graduating to car racing five years ago – since when he has clinched both the European F3 Open Championship title and fiercely-disputed Indy Lights laurels – the gifted Dubai-based ace was a leading light on the domestic and global karting stages.
Jones will be aiming to reprise that front-running form after being called up to compete under the United Arab Emirates banner in what is widely regarded as one of the toughest karting events in the world, bringing together the very crème de la crème of international talent.
The 21-year-old Brit has contested the blue riband showpiece on three previous occasions at Junior Rotax level, ably demonstrating his undoubted prowess by qualifying on pole position in 2009. This time around, Jones will race in the 72-strong DD2 class for shifter karts, with all drivers on Birel ART chassis and a staggering 41 different nationalities making up the high-calibre field – underscoring the Rotax MAX Challenge Grand Finals’ truly cosmopolitan reputation.
“It was a bit of an 11th-hour agreement, but I’m extremely proud to have been invited to represent the UAE in such a prestigious event,” acknowledged the Williams-Harfield Sports Group protégé, who is working hard to secure a Verizon IndyCar Series seat for 2017. “I always enjoyed the Rotax Grand Finals in the past and I’m sure I will again, but ultimately, I do want to win – that’s how I go into any competitive situation.
“That said, I’ll obviously be far from the only one – it’s not like there are any championship points at stake and with nothing to lose and a completely level playing field, everybody will be pushing flat-out for glory. I also haven’t competed in a proper kart race for five years so there will probably be a few cobwebs to blow away, but I’ve done a bit of karting since returning to Dubai after the end of the Indy Lights season and that has definitely re-whetted my appetite.
“Keiran Crawley – who ran me in karts several years ago – will be my mechanic, so it will be good to be reunited with a familiar face and I’m looking forward to working with him again. As for the track itself, I’ve never been to Sarno before but from what I’ve heard, things tend to get a little bit ‘lively’ there – so I’ll need to be on my guard!
“I have no idea where I’ll shake out in terms of relative pace compared to the other drivers, the vast majority of whom have been racing karts week-in, week-out but there are plenty of practice sessions which I’m sure will help me to get quickly up-to-speed. I’m really looking forward to the whole event – it should be a lot of fun.”