Sam Bird of Jaguar Racing has an affinity for racing in New York, and it showed on Sunday afternoon as he took his third-ever race at the New York City E-Prix in Red Hook, to catapult him and his team atop the standings of Formula E after 11 of 15 rounds this season.
Bird led from wire to wire in the 45-minute plus 1-lap affair to finish off a banner day that saw him begin in 13th in the driver’s standings, but a strong showing in qualifying saw him take the pole and set up what could have been a glorious day for Jaguar.
He and his teammate, Mitch Evans, qualified first and second, respectively — the first clue that Saturday’s first race in Brooklyn where neither driver recorded a point, would be a thing of the past.
“It’s about bounce-back ability,” Bird said. “Just never giving up… always believing in yourself and the equipment underneath you. We did that absolutely perfect today.”
Granted, they had to avoid a potentially disastrous moment off the start and into the first turn as Evans tried to hold off Nick Cassidy of Virgin Racing, taking to the inside. But he almost ran into the back of his teammate, Bird, who was off to a brilliant start.
The two created a resolute leading blockade over the first 20 minutes of the race with the understanding that if their current standing and result held, they would be catapulted to the top of the driver’s standings.
Evans entered Sunday’s festivities in sixth place in the individual standings while Bird moved up from 13th to ninth after winning the pole.
But with 24 minutes remaining, Evans lost second place to Cassidy as Bird used his second attack mode — which boosts engine performance by 17.5 percent for four minutes — to build a healthier advantage.
Evans responded with his second attack mode of his own to re-take second place just two minutes later where he had the responsibility of fending off Cassidy and the rest of the pack — including a pair of aggressive Porsches — to keep Jaguar at the top of the E-Prix.
With eight minutes to go, Bird opened a two-second lead, which he would hold until the end. But for his teammate, the final stretches of the New York City E-Prix took a disastrous turn to seriously damage his hopes of winning the driver’s championship.
With just under two minutes remaining, Evans bobbled into the wall and looked as though he encountered rear suspension issues, allowing Cassidy, Antonio Felix Da Costa, and the pair of Porsches in Andre Lotterer and Pascal Wehrlein to drop to sixth. On the final straightaway of the final lap, he ran out of power to finish in 13th.
The Formula E/E-Prix returned to Red Hook for its third season in New York City on July 10 and 11.
This story first appeared on AMNY.com.