An unexpected name cropped up on the timing sheets at today’s IndyCar test at Barber Motorsports Park.
In the seat at Dale Coyne Racing today was 23-year-old James Jakes. The Briton has spent the last several years in some of Europe’s most demanding junior categories, including British Formula 3 and the Formula 3 Euro Series, before tasting GP3 in 2010.
This year sees Jakes running for Scuderia Coloni in both GP2 Asia and the GP2 Main Series – the latter of which will be supporting Formula 1 during its European tour.
It is an unusual move for Jakes to test for Dale Coyne – especially as so few seem to have heard about it, however the test may just be a toe in the water for future endeavours.
This year sees some rather impressive talent lining up on the GP2 grid and while Jakes does possess some speed, it is debatable as to whether Jakes fits into the mould of Formula 1 star.
Along the road to GP2, Jakes took an 8th place finish in the British Formula 3 Championship, some distance short of eventual champion, Mike Conway in 2006.
The next two seasons were spent in Formula 3 Euro Series, where Jakes finished a credible 5th in 2007 behind current Formula 1 racers / reserves Romain Grosjean, Sebastien Buemi, Nico Hulkenberg and Kamui Kobayashi. Jakes took his sole win of the year at the French circuit of Magny Cours.
Unfortunately his 2008 campaign proved to be not far short of disastrous for the young Englishman. Running with the highly regarded ART Grand Prix, Jakes finished the 12th in the points standings alongside teammate Jon Lancaster. Fellow ART Grand Prix drivers Jules Bianchi finished 3rd, while the year was dominated by the returning Hulkenberg.
A hand injury severely reduced Jakes’ running in 2009; however he did eventually run in the GP2 Asia Series twice with some minor rewards – although the GP2 Asia Series has often been criticised in the past for weak grids. A step down to the GP3 Series saw Jakes rewarded with 8th in the final positions.
GP2 winter testing saw Jakes occasionally produce speedy runs, but whether the consistency exists to make him a frontrunner at this higher level remains to be seen.
During what was a day of learning, Jakes finish 23rd of the twenty-four runners at today’s IndyCar test – some 2.27 seconds down on quick man, Will Power following a 72-lap stint.
His 2011 year is already signed up leaving it difficult to prize open a window to the IndyCar Series; however a realignment of his goals may be in the works. With the GP2 Series running at around the same power band as Indycar’s current Honda units, Jakes may be able to garner a feel for the machines rather quickly.
Whether he is bringing any money or not is a different matter, but James Jakes is rarely a driver tied to large sponsorship or bulging cases of cash.