Yorkshireman James Jakes has done his chances of securing a drive for the European leg of the GP2 competition a power of good today after qualifying third for the Sepang race.
Jakes, who currently drives alongside Javier Villa at Super Nova, has not been retained by the team past the end of the series’ Asian leg in Bahrain at the end of this month.
He’s enjoyed a solid season with steady improvement, but the third-place slot on the Sepang grid is easily his best achievement.
The two teams with drivers still unconfirmed for 2009 are British-based DPR and Trident Racing, Mike Conway’s old team.
On pole for the race is DAMS’ JÃ©rÃ´me d’Ambrosio, now fifth in the series standings with 23 points.
A tough fight for pole position saw the 22 drivers finishing within a second of each other, with the Belgian enjoying his first pole.
Rain at the start of the session meant that only half of the cars chose to test the grip of the track, mainly equipped with wet tyres.
Championship leader Kamui Kobayashi stayed put in the pitlane while his teammate d’Ambrosio went into a reconnaissance lap in slick tyres. Those who chose the wet tyres option rapidly came back to the pits in order to change to slick compounds.
The first man who posted a significant laptime was Diego Nunes of Piquet GP, 10 minutes into the session. A battle for the pole position ensued between the two Dams men, the two Piquet racers, Durango’s Davide Valsecchi and a flying James Jakes.
In the very last stages of the session, JÃ©rÃ´me d’Ambrosio went out on a flyer and crossed the finish line on 1:45.410.
A fierce battle for second saw Jakes lose out to Nunes for the remaining front row position – but we’re betting he’s pretty happy with third. Series leader Kamui Kobayashi starts fourth and Jakes’ team-mate Villa is fifth.
In the post-qualifying press conference, Jakes said: “It is my first time here actually and I really love the track.
“We had a problem with the brakes this morning in free practice, and we haven’t been able to test as much as I wanted. Also, in qualifying, we did a run on the old slick tyres to make sure that the brakes were okay. But after that, it was good and the guys had fixed the problem.
“You can learn this track a little bit on the video games, but a lot of the other guys in the field had been here before so I knew I had to do something good to stand the chance to be in the Top 10.
“So I went out straight away on slick tyres. There were a couple of guys who followed me out and who were on wet tyres, but slicks was a better option. It all worked nicely.”
He said the heat would be a challenge, but one he was confident of coping with.
“The track temperature was so hot that any rain that came down, the track was not going to be too wet. I knew it wasn’t going to stay wet for the session.
“Tomorrow, we’ll see how the weather is and I believe we can have a good race. It will be long and hot. But I’m pretty confident. We can be even a little bit quicker than we have been today in qualifying. I’m looking forward to it.”