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17 July 2017
Double victory for Sam and DS Virgin in New York
DS Virgin Racing's Sam Bird made history by becoming the first ever winner of a car race in New York City – and then he did it all over again the next day to sweep the honours in Formula E's double-header New York ePrix.
In front of a packed Brooklyn crowd and DS Virgin founder Sir Richard Branson, Sam clinched victory in Saturday's first race with a stunning drive from fourth on the grid, while team-mate Alex Lynn qualified on pole.
Then on Sunday he triumphed from pole position in race two to round off an incredible weekend for the DS Virgin Racing team – one that saw the team earn its largest-ever points haul and the Empire State Building lit up in its purple and red colours.
Team Principal Alex Tai said: "It's been an absolutely fantastic weekend for the team and our partners. To be the first team to win in New York is incredible but to do it again is unthinkable. Sam and Alex both did an incredible job, as did all the mechanics and engineers, and showed the true potential of the car. Now it's on to Canada and to end the season on a high."
"I'm still in shock!" said Sam, who now has five wins to his name in his Formula E career. "What a weekend it's been and what a car the DS Virgin Racing guys have given me.
"It feels incredible to win here – this was an historic weekend, not only for Formula E, but for motorsport in general. There's never been a race in New York before and this has been a long time coming, and to be the first person to win the first and second races here is really special."
Sam qualified fourth for Saturday's race but both days saw odd-numbered qualifiers struggle on the dirtier side of the track at the start. Sam exploited that advantage to grab third at the first corner while Lynn dropped to second.
Sam was soon past him and a few laps later made a great pass up the inside of the hairpin to take the lead from Daniel Abt. A precision pitstop then allowed him to maintain his lead and control the gap to Jean Eric Vergne behind.
With five laps to go, a brief safety car period meant there would be a two-lap dash to the line when the race resumed but Sam executed a perfect restart and never looked in doubt as he took the chequered flag and a place in the history books.
He said: "It was a tough race but after the safety car I got a decent restart and it was a bit nerve racking as I knew Vergne would be pushing me but we got there and it's fantastic to be celebrating this victory."
Vergne said: "I pushed hard to save more energy than this guy [Sam], but he didn't make any mistakes and he deserved the win."
With another race the next day there was little time for celebration – especially as Sam found himself drawn in group one for qualifying and had to go out when the track was at its worst. Despite this he claimed pole to make it a DS Virgin sweep for the weekend.
As on Saturday, the start of race two saw drivers on the dirty side disadvantaged and Sam lost out at the first corner to Mahindra's Felix Rosenqvist. The Swede held on out front during the opening stages until Sam treated the fans packing the grandstands to a masterclass in overtaking.
For the second race in a row he executed a perfectly-judged move under braking at the turn six hairpin to seize the lead. Once he was ahead, he simply drove away from the field.
From then on it was a case of managing the gap and energy – in the extended 49-lap race – which he did faultlessly to cross the line with a sizeable 11-second margin and pick up a combined 56 points for the team for the double-header weekend.
He said: "Being a longer race today I thought it would be hard on energy but we managed it so well. The pitstop was a key point but we timed it well to just get out in front. I'm just delighted for everyone in the team, especially my engineers and mechanics, who have worked so hard for this."
Rosenqvist added: "I wasn't expecting DS Virgin Racing to be as strong as they were, Sam also drove fantastically – he looked pretty on it."
Xavier Mestelan Pinon, DS Performance Director, said: "This is a fantastic achievement that confirms the improvements we've made over the last few months. This weekend we showed our car is fast in qualifying and also very efficient in terms of energy consumption. This is the result of a R&D during testing and on the simulator. I'd like to say a huge thank you to the DS Performance team and to the PSA Motorsport Division for their hard work."
The Formula E season concludes in Montreal with another double-header on July 29 & 30.