LONDON, April 10 - He was the youngest driver in the field for Sunday's British Formula Renault 2000 race at Brands Hatch and a foreigner to boot, but 17-year-old Jeffrey Jones of Casey Key, Fla., drove like a veteran to finish seventh in his first FR2000 race ever.
Jones out-qualified drivers with much more experience when he earned the sixth starting spot with an average speed of 110.06 mph, just a half-second off polesitter and eventual winner Danny Watts' Tatuus. This was even more amazing considering that testing was at a minimum for the car, which is new this season.
Early in the race an eight-car train developed at the head of the field, with Jones in seventh. For 25 minutes the pack made its way around the 2.6-mile circuit with a lot of dicing going on between the top competitors.
Jones needed a yellow and he got his wish when James Pickford spun. On the restart Jones powered by Mark McLoughlin for sixth. A bad exit at the Surtees turn gave McLoughlin the opportunity to pass him back, but Jones still soldiered on even though the track was losing its grip as each second ticked away. He took the checkered in a blur of cars in seventh position for sponsors JCI, PVS Chemicals, Winchester Ammunitions, Yogurt Delight and Dyam Design.
"I set consistent laps and stayed with the front-runners the entire race," Jones said later. "That and wanting a strong finish were my goals for the first race of the season."
When asked about the new car, he said "The balance of the car was great and the Manor Motorsports team did an awesome job. I just couldn't find enough grip to really make it any closer to the front. We'll sort that all out in our testing in Italy this week while preparing for the first Euro Cup race at Mugello on Sunday."
After Mugello Jones will return to England for the next race in the British Formula Renault 2000 Championship April 23-24 at Donington Park.
Jones' racing program promotes the Make A Wish Foundation. The United Kingdom director of that group, Norman Denham, was on hand to cheer Jones on at Brands Hatch. Jones' racing program is providing exposure for the foundation and its goal, which is to grant wishes of children with serious illnesses.
Jones' website is under construction at www.jeffreyjones.net. Other information can be obtained on the team's website at www.manormotorsport.com.