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IndyCar Season Preview: James Jakes

Photo credit: Ned Leone

#19 Acorn Stairlifts/Boy Scouts of America Dallara-Honda, Dale Coyne Racing

Born: August 4, 1987

Home: Leeds, West Yorkshire, England

2011 HIGHLIGHTS: Racing in an American series for the first time in 2011, and working alongside longtime force Sebastien Bourdais on road and street courses, Jakes picked up speed as the season progressed. By the end of the season, the Brit had little trouble qualifying in or near the top 10. Despite ranking only 22nd in points, Jakes only suffered four DNFs in 16 races, meaning he had a better finishing rate than such established competitors as Mike Conway, E.J. Viso, and Simona de Silvestro.

2011 LOWLIGHTS: Ovals were Jakes’ Achilles’ heel in 2011, as he failed to qualify for the Indianapolis 500 and frequently finished laps down elsewhere. He suffered crashes during the race at Iowa and during practice at Las Vegas, forcing his Dale Coyne Racing team to borrow a car from KV Racing Technology for the aborted season finale.

SEASON OUTLOOK: In his second year driving for an eternally improving Dale Coyne’s outfit, Jakes will team with another great road course driver in Justin Wilson, who brought Coyne his first IndyCar win in this #18 car at Watkins Glen in 2009. Jakes will also benefit from Coyne’s coveted Honda engine contract, landed when Wilson returned to the team, and the vast engineering skills of John Dick (who will lead Jakes’ team) and Bill Pappas (Wilson’s engineer, and the man who oversaw Coyne’s 2009 victory).

The end goal will be to make sure that Jakes can carry over the speed he found at the end of last season into 2012. A late start in testing and cautious Honda reps have rendered him at a bit of a disadvantage to that end, but the hope is that Dick – a reputable engineer most recently of KV Racing Technology, and a former engineer for such greats as Adrian Fernandez, Arie Luyendyk, and Paul Tracy – will be able to squeeze more out of the car than other smaller outfits. Jakes has also praised the new car’s similarity to some of the European single-seaters that he drove before coming to the United States. If that’s the case, there’s a good chance that Jakes could score some surprisingly decent finishes this year, and maybe even make significant gains in the standings.

– Chris Leone

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