Bird swoops to inaugural New York victory

Photo: Nat Twiss/Spacesuit Media

Sam Bird became the first driver in motorsport history to win a race in New York City after charging from fourth place on the grid to win Saturday’s Formula E opener for DS Virgin Racing.

A bold start saw Bird gain a position ahead of Jean-Eric Vergne as teammate Alex Lynn slipped back from pole to P2 behind Daniel Abt, who led the early part of the race around the streets of Red Hook.

Bird put pressure on Lynn before getting a call to swap positions in order to avoid losing too much ground on the leader, allowing him to push on and attack Abt at the head of the field.

Bird moved into the lead on Lap 15 after getting a run on Abt, the German driver struggling with the balance on his ABT Schaeffler Audi Sport car, and quickly pulled out a lead before the car swaps at half-distance.

Abt began to lose position after position, allowing Vergne to rise to second for Techeetah and gain time thanks to a quicker car swap, reducing the gap to around 2.5 seconds.

Vergne put his Renault powertrain to good use to reel Bird in, sitting just a second shy with 15 laps to go. Wary of the growing threat, Bird upped his own pace and stabilised the gap, looking comfortable heading into the closing stages.

A late safety car called following a stoppage for Nick Heidfeld after a right-rear suspension failure bunched the field and gave Vergne one last chance to catch Bird, the race returning to green flag running with two tours of the circuit remaining.

Bird perfected his restart and was able to peel away from Vergne once again before crossing the line to secure victory for DS Virgin, the fourth of his Formula E career and first since Buenos Aires 2016.

Vergne was left to settle for second, but was joined on the podium by Techeetah teammate Stephane Sarrazin. Rising from 11th on the grid, Sarrazin gained a number of places through the pit stops to run fourth late on. An error from Abt allowed the Frenchman through to third, completing an impressive day for the Chinese team.

Lucas di Grassi recovered from his qualifying struggles to finish fourth and cut the absent Sebastien Buemi’s championship lead to 20 points, capitalising on issues for a number of drivers late on. Besides Abt and Heidfeld, Felix Rosenqvist also dropped back after spinning his car and damaging his rear wing, throwing away a good points opportunity in the process.

Fifth place ultimately went to Loic Duval, who gave Faraday Future Dragon Racing its best result of the season so far, while Oliver Turvey took sixth for NextEV NIO.

Pierre Gasly bounced back from qualifying 19th to finish seventh on his Formula E debut, leading home Renault e.dams teammate Nicolas Prost in eighth.

MS Amlin Andretti returned to the points after a two-race absence courtesy of Robin Frijns, while Adam Carroll rounded out the points for Jaguar.

More to follow…

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