WINSLOW 'FAST AS FRONTRUNNERS' BUT LACKING LUCK James Winslow appeared on course for another strong Firestone Indy Lights result on the streets of Toronto, only to find that Lady Luck had deserted him again. Having recorded a top five result...
WINSLOW 'FAST AS FRONTRUNNERS' BUT LACKING LUCK
James Winslow appeared on course for another strong Firestone Indy Lights result on the streets of Toronto, only to find that Lady Luck had deserted him again.
Having recorded a top five result on his return to the series at Watkins Glen last time out, the Briton headed across the US-Canada border confident that he could become a regular frontrunner, and the weekend's free practice session bolstered that belief as he posted the sixth best time in a field where all but three drivers, including Winslow, had previous experience of the tricky street layout.
However, as temperatures rose ahead of qualifying, the Sam Schmidt Motorsport team found its #77 Focal Point car struggling with turn-in oversteer that left it almost undriveable as the track gained in grip. Despite having a battle on his hands, Winslow narrowly missed a top ten grid slot, and then worked hard with the team to find a solution to the problem, with similar conditions forecast for raceday.
"It was such a shame to find the car so different from practice to qualifying, as I am sure we could have troubled the frontrunners," the Briton admitted, "However, the Sam Schmidt team again showed why it is one of the best out there as we traced the problem - and found a cure for it - ahead of the race."
Showing that the #77 had been transformed, Winslow blasted by three cars into turn one on the opening lap and, turning times as quick as those leading the race, closed quickly on the group battling over fourth place. Fellow rookie Adrian Campos Jr was the next car in his sights, and the Briton dealt summarily with the Spaniard on lap 31 - only for Campos to stage a belated retaliation that saw him tag the left rear wheel of the SSM machine.
"It was a schoolboy error," Winslow fumed, "He only decided to fight back at the last minute, and fed me a wheel that pitched my car six feet into the air, and then into the wall. I was clearly ahead of him when he did that - the pass was made what he did cost both of us big time. I was lapping quicker than the leaders, but had my day ruined by someone else's bad driving!"
Determined to salvage something from the race, Winslow returned to the pits to have his front wing changed, but was a long way behind when he rejoined. Despite the setback, however, he continued to show what might have been, immediately picking up the pace of the frontrunners and even lapping faster than them as he attempted to pick up any positions on offer.
The time lost extricating himself from the wall and then having his car repaired ultimately proved too great even for a charging Winslow to overcome, and the Briton eventually crossed the line a lap down in eleventh place, frustrated at the result, but buoyed by the pace he managed to find in the #77 entry.
"The car was great even after the accident," he confirmed, "The team did a good job to get me back into the race, and it was good to be able to lap faster than the eventual winner and the rest of the group at the front of the field. It just goes to show that we will be able to win races if we can just overcome the early weekend problems we have been having. I really can't believe our luck at the moment.
"The Toronto track was awesome, and I was amazed by the improvement the #77 car showed in being able to challenge for the fastest lap of the race. That is very encouraging, and we just need to keep the momentum that we had at the end of the race and take it into Edmonton next weekend - if we are able to attend.
"Thank you to all our supporters - BSS, Team Effort, Focal Point, Gojoteki and everyone helping this programme. We will now work very hard to get to Edmonton and put our very positive pace into getting a podium and even a race win'
Team boss Sam Schmidt had no doubt that Winslow could have been on course for another strong result had it not been for the lap 31 incident with Campos Jr.
"What happened to James was unfortunate," the IndyCar Series veteran commented, "He was, once again, moving forward and making strides towards the front but, unfortunately, another driver took away the chance for him to have a good finish. Let's hope that we can do better in Edmonton and get into the top five."
The Firestone Indy Lights series remains in Canada for the second half of its annual double-header, on the runways of Edmonton City Airport over the weekend of 25 July.