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7 February 2016

Brilliant Bird claims first season victory for DS Virgin Racing

Skill, patience and excellent team management combine to give DS Virgin Racing their first win of the season after just four races. And it was all done in incredible fashion.

Sam celebrates victory

Sam Bird produced a brilliant performance to hold off the charge of Sebastien Buemi and claim the first Formula E win for the DS Virgin alliance.

Bird started the Buenos Aires E-Prix from pole and controlled the pack from the front, just using enough energy to keep first Nico Prost and then Antonio Felix da Costa and Lucas di Grassi at bay.

While Sam was untroubled in the lead, championship frontrunner Buemi was giving his all to recover from a qualifying spin that forced him to start last.

The Swiss driver had already caught the leaders when a late safety car handed him a shot at winning - and Sam’s epic defence of DS Virgin Racing’s maiden victory made this one of the most thrilling races in Formula E history.

Sam said: “As everybody knows we merged with a great manufacturer, DS, for this season and the hard work at the DS Virgin Racing team has produced a really good car today. This is for the boys and the ladies who have worked tirelessly since Punta del Este to give me a better race car.”

After running fastest in first practice, Sam seized a dominant pole position - and there was more good news for DS Virgin Racing as his team-mate Jean Eric Verge recovered from food poisoning to also take part after missing practice.

Sam said: “It was our first pole, so I was delighted for the team. The aim before the weekend was a podium and qualifying definitely made that a reality. It felt good to be starting the race with just the track ahead. So far this season I have had a few cars in front of me but this time my grid position couldn’t have been better.”

With so many lead changes in a typical Formula E race it’s a real challenge to hold onto first place from beginning to end, but that’s exactly what Sam did. He managed to head off Prost on the run down to the first tight corner and from that moment on he stayed out in front.

It was always an extremely close affair, but he came under intense pressure after the car changeover, first of all from di Grassi and then from Buemi, who pushed Sam extremely hard right to the very last corner.

Buemi said: "I've been a bit lucky, I'd say. The safety car helped a lot. Towards the end it was very difficult because the battery overheated for everyone. Sam did a fantastic job."



 

Respect is high among all the @fiaformulae drivers. And this picture sums it up pretty well. @sebastien_buemi

A photo posted by sambirdracing (@sambirdracing) on



The atmosphere in the DS Virgin Racing garage when Sam crossed the line was electrifying. After testing in Punta del Este, the DS Virgin Racing and DS Performance engineers were confident they had found some improvements in the car, but until the result in Buenos Aires they couldn’t be confident that things would play out as they had hoped. In the end, all of the hard work paid off - and to make it an even better day, the team’s drivers showed how popular they are with fans by each winning the Fanboost vote.

“It was an intense race,” said Alex Tai, DS Virgin Racing team principal. “Of course tensions are amplified when you’re leading the race and the team had to remain focussed. Sam did an incredible job at defending his position and managing his cars’ energy and temperatures. I’ve always been confident that we have some of the most talented drivers on a very talented grid and I think Sam’s performance was a great demonstration of this. This is one of Sam’s best drives for the team so far.

“I am delighted with today’s performance from the drivers and the team. The DS performance team, led by Xavier Mestelan, have injected a vital level of series winning experience and capability - this combination with our existing engineers and mechanics, along with a great deal of hard work, has earned the DS Virgin Racing team our first victory of the partnership.”

Xavier Mestelan Pinon, DS performance director, was also delighted with the team’s victory after such close collaboration: “This is a historic weekend for DS brand - a weekend that has offered DS Virgin Racing its first victory in Formula E and what a satisfaction to see all the hard work pay off.

“Let me just say a big thank you to Sam Bird for this absolutely exceptional performance in qualifying with the Super Pole and in the race where he fought right until the end. He demonstrated the power of our collaboration with the Virgin team and we will continue to work to progress and to live other unforgettable moments.”

The last word went to Sam: “I’m just so delighted, I’m so happy for the whole team. This is our first win as DS Virgin Racing. We have worked closely with DS Performance since the start of the season to better understand the car and after all this work I’m ecstatic I won today, not just for myself but for the entire team. This win is for everyone.”