Entering his fourth season of IndyCar Series competition, England’s James Jakes finds himself searching for a new team and a fresh start. Two years spent with Dale Coyne Racing offered glimpses of promise, but with only two top-10s from 32 races, the 26-year-old went searching for a more competitive situation.
His move to Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing was, at least on paper, a significant upgrade, but as he and teammate Graham Rahal found, 2013 would prove to be a year of rebuilding rather than one filled with breakout performances.
Jakes managed to impress at Detroit 2, scoring his first podium finish with a fighting second behind Simon Pagenaud, and added a sixth-place finish at Houston 1, but settling for 19th in the standings was far below what he and the team expected.
Although the door was never officially closed for a return with RLLR, it became clear that both sides would look elsewhere for 2014, and with few seats left open in the IndyCar paddock, Jakes has been working through a few different scenarios with team owners like Bryan Herta and Dale Coyne, and has even been considering the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship.
With so many choices to consider, Jakes told RACER he’s getting closer to making a final decision on where he’ll focus his efforts.
“Things are going slowly in the right direction and we’re just trying to piece things together,” he said. “I’d like to stay in IndyCar, and think we showed some good things last year, but we have the budget we’ll have to run and we’re having to see who’ll run us for that amount. It is what it is, and a lot of teams want a lot of money but you can only bring what you have. I’m looking at some other series to keep my options open, and even in Europe, but our goal is to stay in IndyCar if all sides can agree.”
Jakes could make his Rolex 24 at Daytona debut later this month, and has expressed his fondness for the TUDOR Championship’s 11-race calendar, but also feels like he has unfinished business in the IndyCar Series. Based on his tone and the offer to partner with Justin Wilson again at DCR, a full-time move to sports cars might have to wait.
“If the deal’s right with Dale, you know you’ve got one of the best teammates on the grid there, and I would like to be out testing as soon as I can,” he added. “Dale’s got a great driver there, and anyone in that team will have some great data to look at. It’s just going to take time to see how it all plays out and I’ve been talking with some other teams as well.
“And I like the tracks the [TUDOR Championship] goes to; they’re very different than what we race in IndyCar, and I’d like to do it at some point, but there’s a lot of things I haven’t accomplished yet in IndyCar that I want to cover, so it the contract comes in over the next week or two like it’s supposed to, I think that’s where you’ll see me.”