James Winslow takes top five at Watkins Glen James Winslow finally achieved the result his Firestone Indy Lights Series form has deserved when he claimed fifth place in the Corning 100 at the historic Watkins Glen circuit in New York...
James Winslow takes top five at Watkins Glen
James Winslow finally achieved the result his Firestone Indy Lights Series form has deserved when he claimed fifth place in the Corning 100 at the historic Watkins Glen circuit in New York State.
The Briton's previous three outings in the IndyCar feeder series had seen him suffer more than his share of misfortune but, despite qualifying at the former Formula One venue suggesting that Lady Luck was again absent from his side of the Sam Schmidt Motorsport garage, Winslow turned things around on race day to produce his best result of the season.
Facing another new venue, but not having so much as set foot in a race car since his last Indy Lights outing on the streets of Long Beach - where the steering wheel of the #77 car came off in his hands as he was chasing a potential podium finish - Winslow's initial progress was slowed by handling problems that plagued his practice sessions.
Still struggling massively to pinpoint the right balance and set-up heading into qualifying, the multiple F3 and V6 champion was denied the chance to continue working on the car when a fitting on the sump broke on a kerb, causing him to spin out of the session before he had set a time, and leaving the #77 at the very back of the grid. The post-session examination of the car also revealed a faulty front brake cylinder, which had no doubt contributed to Winslow's woes and added to the problems that needed to be addressed before Sunday's 30-lap encounter.
"It was good to be back in the car after early three months away, but I couldn't believe it when we started the weekend with more bad luck," Winslow commented, "We know that the car is good, but we just couldn't get a handle on the set-up to start with. We needed the track time, but didn't get it - and then the sump breaking in qualifying just compounded matters."
Without a qualifying time, the #77 car lined up last on the grid but, with the various problems solved, Winslow suddenly found that he had a car he could work with, and wasted little time making up places. A good start gained four spots immediately, with another falling to the Briton on lap two. Four laps later, Sam Schmidt team-mate Philip Major was accounted for, while fellow countryman Stefan Wilson's retirement handed Winslow another position.
In all, Winslow completed eight passing moves as he made his way through the closely-matched field, and was catching another Briton, Martin Plowman, as the race entered its final stages. However, despite setting his fastest lap of the race during his pursuit of the second-year driver, Winslow saw any chance of catching - and passing - his rival when Plowman's AFS/Andretti Autosport team-mate, Charlie Kimball, blocked the #77 car, despite being four laps down.
"The car was completely different in the race," Winslow confirmed, "I was comfortable with it straight away and was able to drive it on the limit. That allowed me to catch and pass drivers ahead of me, and I was flying until Kimball blocked me. I was a second a lap faster than Plowman, and got to within a second of him, so I'm sure team orders were in play. It's so frustrating as I'm sure that I could have finished fourth.
"Still, it was good to be competitive - we were trading lap times with the top three drivers - and making up all those places meant that I earned the Hard Charger award. I have to thank the team for sorting the issues we faced this weekend and for giving me a great car for the race. Hopefully, this is the change of luck that the #77 team needed, and we can run at the front from now on."
"James had an awesome race," team owner Sam Schmidt added, "He's shown over and over again that he can make passes happen where others can't. To start from last and come away with a top five is very satisfying for him and that whole crew."
The Firestone Indy Lights series now heads across the US-Canada border, to the streets of Toronto, for round seven of the season on the weekend of 18 July.