DAMS signs off rookie GP3 season with Abu Dhabi win

DAMS ended their maiden GP3 Series campaign with a stunning victory in Abu Dhabi, round nine of the 2016 season (November 25-27), as Jake Hughes battled back heroically from a pitlane start to claim the winner's trophy. British racer Hughes was forced to start race one from the pitlane after race control ruled on an unsafe release from the pits during qualifying, and sensationally carved through the field to finish seventh. That result gave the BRDC Superstar a front-row start on the race two reversed grid, which became the lead at the first corner. The 22-year-old Briton built a commanding lead and deservedly took the second victory of his rookie season and also the second for Le Mans-based DAMS. All three DAMS drivers performed impressively at the Yas Marina Circuit. Swiss rookie Kevin Joerg started eighth and ran strongly throughout to come home a career-best fourth. The Renault Sport Academy driver added eighth place on Sunday, impressively holding off new champion Charles Leclerc to round off his best weekend of the season. American Santino Ferrucci put in a career-best qualifying performance to line up sixth for race one. The Haas F1 Development Driver was in contention for a second podium of 2016 when he was penalised for an on-track incident with Leclerc, which dropped him to ninth. After just missing out on the reverse-grid pole Ferrucci was then hit and suffered an unfortunate puncture, dropping him to the back of the field, before battling his way back through to 15th. DAMS collected 36 points - their season-best total of 2016 - in Abu Dhabi, elevating the Le Mans-based outfit to fourth in the end-of-year teams' standings. Hughes' win helped him climb to eighth in the Drivers' Championship, with Ferrucci 12th and Joerg 14th. DAMS will stay in the UAE as the GP3 Series hosts three end-of-season test days (November 30-December 2), for which drivers will be announced shortly. Jake Hughes, P7/P1: "The weekend started out very promising, the car performed well on the hard tyres and Santino proved we were also quick on the super-softs. I felt really good going into qualifying and remained positive, despite the unfortunate happenings and I think that's what spurred me on for the rest of the weekend. Going from the pitlane to seventh in the Feature Race was amazing and it put me in a great position for the Sprint, where I was able to finish the season with a win. It's fantastic for everyone involved, the car felt awesome and I'd like to thank DAMS for this first GP3 season." Kevin Joerg, P4/P8: "It was a good weekend to finish the season. Qualifying was positive; I managed to line up eighth for race one, which went really well. I gained a few places and felt I produced a clean drive without mistakes, so I was really happy with fourth - my best result in GP3 - and scoring a decent handful of points. On Sunday, I struggled at the start, but still managed to hold on to eighth and score another point." Santino Ferrucci, P9/P15: "It was a great start to the weekend with fourth in practice then sixth in qualifying, and we did a good job with the car. In race one I was fighting for third, but then unfortunately had contact with Charles [Leclerc]. I think it was a racing incident, but the officials decided to penalise me, which put me ninth and just out of the reversed-grid positions for Sunday's race. I had a good start, but got hit in Turn 5 which gave me a puncture, so I had to come back from that. Overall the team did an excellent job this weekend and it's a nice way to end the year." François Sicard, Managing Director: "The weekend started well, the cars were competitive with Santino sixth and Kevin eighth in qualifying. We're very sorry for what happened to Jake, he didn't deserve this. All the drivers performed very well in the first race and Santino's penalty was very harsh; ninth place was unjust. Kevin did a great job and of course it was superb for Jake to clinch seventh. Jake's Sprint Race win from start-to-finish is a nice reward for him and the team. Kevin had some good fights and defended very well and Santino showed good pace, but obviously the puncture ended his chances. We have been more consistent in the second half of this season and here we showed that we can challenge for wins, which is promising for 2017. Now we will focus on next year, starting off with the tests later this week."