Victory no.3 - the best yet! Jean-Karl Vernay is a pretty amazing rookie, and the current leader of the 2010 Indy Lights Championship has stunned onlookers with his performances. At present, he has won 50% of the races in which he has taken part...
Victory no.3 - the best yet!
Jean-Karl Vernay is a pretty amazing rookie, and the current leader of the 2010 Indy Lights Championship has stunned onlookers with his performances. At present, he has won 50% of the races in which he has taken part since he arrived in the United States! The young driver from Villeurbanne's third victory is perhaps the best yet as it came in the splendid setting of the very tricky; mythic Watkins Glen circuit, one of the jewels in American motor sport's crown.
JK had astounded his most fervent fans by winning his first race in Indy Lights in the streets of Saint Petersburg with a comfortable margin over his rivals. He repeated his success on the Barber Motorsport Park road circuit with a flag-to-flag victory after starting from pole. In Watkins Glen, though, he was expecting a very tough challenge. "It's a very undulating layout and the average lap speed is in excess of 200 km/h, so you need a good dose of confidence! And I was the only one of the favourites who had never raced there!" The Sam Schmidt Motorsport driver took advantage of the two free sessions to find his marks, and he then upped the heat by setting the third-quickest time in qualifying. In the warm-up he went one better setting the second-fastest lap. He had achieved his first objective: namely, to be in a position to score a good result in the state of New York.
Even through the Frenchman reckoned he made a poor start, he more than compensated for it by an aggressive first lap. He defended his third place with a bit of late braking, and then moved up into second place in the following corner behind pole setter, James Hinchcliffe. The safety car came out for the first time on lap 2 after the collision between Pippa Mann and Dan Clarke. When the race restarted JK and Hinchcliffe went at it hammer and tongs. "I made a mistake and he was able to open up a small gap, and I was closing it when the safety car came out again due to oil spilt on the track by Stefan Wilson's engine. On the restart, I had to brake late at the Bus Stop to fend off an attack by Sebastian Saavedra and two laps later Hinchcliffe also made a mistake. I piled on the pressure immediately and passed him with eleven laps to go to the finish."
JK put on an heroic performance as the chequered flag approached. Hinchcliffe, who had dominated the early stages of the meeting, was determined to get back in front. "I made the same mistake as he did when I passed him as I slid on the powder sprinkled on Wilson's oil by the marshals. He pulled out to pass at the Bus Stop, but I braked very late and managed to stay in front." The Englishman attempted to pass Vernay again a few metres before the finishing line, but the Frenchman held him off and won by two-tenths of a second! "It really wasn't all that easy as we had a low downforce aero setup on the car. Although I had a high top speed, Hinchcliffe caught me in the twisty sections. We were both on the absolute limit!"
At Watkins Glen, JK really showed his mettle. He has increased his lead in the championship whose points scale is such that winning races doesn't confer a significant advantage. Consistency is also needed so scoring points on a regular basis should pay off at the end of the season. The Firestone Indy Lights Championship will reach the halfway mark in Canada, with two races in succession on the city circuits of Toronto and Edmonton on 18th and 25th July.