Sa­hara Force In­dia and Ocon for Bar­ba­dos Fes­ti­val of Speed

The Star (St. Lucia) - - LOCAL -

Sa­hara Force In­dia For­mula One driver Este­ban Ocon, who started from a ca­reer-best third on the grid at last week’s Ital­ian Grand Prix at Monza, will join for­mer F1 World Cham­pion Jen­son But­ton at the Bar­ba­dos Fes­ti­val of Speed (BFoS) on Satur­day, Oc­to­ber 14. The ris­ing French star, who turns 21 later this month, re­turns to Bushy Park Bar­ba­dos, where he and fel­low-coun­try­man Ro­main Gros­jean - now an F1 ri­val - reached the semi-fi­nals of Race Of Cham­pi­ons in 2014.

Ocon’s ap­pear­ance, con­firmed on Tues­day, Septem­ber 12, is part of a wider com­mit­ment to BFoS from Sa­hara Force In­dia, which will also be send­ing a VJM09 show car, to be dis­played in the Fes­ti­val Vil­lage at Bushy Park. The out­fit al­ready has is­land con­nec­tions, as Team Prin­ci­pal Dr Vi­jay Mallya is the fran­chise-holder of the Tri­dents of Bar­ba­dos in the Caribbean Pre­mier League, while Rock Hard Ce­ment is a spon­sor of both the Tri­dents and the F1 team.

The one-day Fes­ti­val of Speed will be the first event to ben­e­fit from the fa­cil­ity’s new all-arena light­ing, cur­rently be­ing in­stalled, and will run from day into night, start­ing at 2.00pm. In ad­di­tion to the head­line acts, which also in­clude the spec­tac­u­lar Twis­ter Aer­o­bat­ics Team and the hugely pop­u­lar Dream­ers Banger Rac­ers, the eight-hour show will in­clude a cross-sec­tion of lo­cal mo­tor sport dis­ci­plines.

On his last visit to the is­land in De­cem­ber 2014, hav­ing al­ready won Min­ime, Cadet and KF3 Kart Cham­pi­onships in his home coun­try, Ocon had re­cently been crowned the FIA Euro­pean For­mula 3 Cham­pion in his Rookie sea­son; he won nine times en route to the ti­tle and de­feated a wealth of driv­ing tal­ent, in­clud­ing Max Ver­stap­pen, another of his cur­rent F1 ri­vals.

He im­me­di­ately demon­strated his skills to lo­cal fans, by win­ning the in­au­gu­ral ROC Skills Chal­lenge pre­sented by TAG Heuer #Don­tCrack­Un­derPres­sure. Over a course de­signed to put the driv­ers through their paces with a range of tests such as slaloms, 180 and 360 de­gree turns and par­al­lel park­ing, Ocon set the fastest time, ahead of nine-time Le Mans win­ner Tom Kris­tensen and Pet­ter Sol­berg, who had just be­come the first driver to win FIA World Cham­pi­onships in dif­fer­ent dis­ci­plines, Rally and Ral­ly­cross.

Ocon went on to win the GP3 Se­ries in 2015, be­fore spend­ing the early part of 2016 driv­ing for Mercedes-Benz in the DTM (Ger­man Tour­ing Car Cham­pi­onship), along­side his re­serve driver role at Re­nault Sport F1. Af­ter mak­ing his F1 de­but in that year’s Bel­gian GP, the Mercedes F1 Ju­nior con­tested the fi­nal nine races of the sea­son with the now de­funct Manor out­fit, with a best fin­ish of 12th, be­fore be­ing signed by Sa­hara Force In­dia.

In­ter­viewed just be­fore the start of the 2017 sea­son in Mel­bourne, Ocon said: “My per­sonal tar­get would be to score points at ev­ery race”, a tar­get he has al­most de­liv­ered on, Monaco be­ing the only race where he has been out­side the points. With a best re­sult of fifth and three sixth places, in­clud­ing last week in Italy, he is eighth in the F1 Cham­pi­onship stand­ings, just one place and three points be­hind team-mate Ser­gio Perez, who has been with Sa­hara Force In­dia since 2014.

Of his forth­com­ing re­turn to the Caribbean, Ocon said: “I had great fun last time I vis­ited Bar­ba­dos for the Race Of Cham­pi­ons, so it’s great to be com­ing back for the Fes­ti­val of Speed. The fans in Bar­ba­dos re­ally love mo­tor sport and I will try my best to keep them en­ter­tained.”

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