Sam Bird emerges from the electrifying season-opening Hong Kong Formula E double-header as championship leader following an against-the-odds victory in the opening race.
Qualifying second, the DS Virgin Racing driver made a bold move up the inside of the turn six hairpin to seize the lead from TECHEETAH’s Jean-Eric Vergne.
But Bird’s chances of launching his campaign with a win looked under threat when he was given a drive-through penalty for skidding in the dusty pit lane and failing to swap cars in his assigned space.
However, his pace was so strong that he emerged from serving his penalty still holding the advantage.
He said: "When I came out of the pits there was a TECHEETAH in front of me and thought it was JEV, so I was pushing hard to catch him. It turned out I was in the lead and I never in a million years expected that.
"That was a really crazy race, I’m still trying to process what happened. It’s unreal for me, winning after a drive-through penalty in Formula E. I’d like to thank the team, we knew it would be tough this year with lots of close competition."
The victory means Bird maintains his record of claiming a win in every season of the ground-breaking electric racing series, and his 2017-18 challenge was further boosted by a battling fifth place in the second Hong Kong race.
Bird’s first race car swap incident was punished a second time, with a 10-place grid penalty, but he qualified well and fought through the field from 13th to earn more points.
With team-mate Alex Lynn also scoring in both races, DS Virgin Racing ended the weekend a close second in the teams’ championship.
Afterwards Bird said: "It’s been a very encouraging weekend for DS Virgin Racing and myself. Thank you to everyone for working so hard over the summer break and we’re looking forward to going into round three focused and ready to battle for more podiums."
Team Principal Alex Tai said: "To be in this position after the opening rounds is fantastic. The results demonstrate the strength and ability of our drivers, the car and the whole of the DS Virgin Racing team, and we head into the New Year in a very strong position."
DS Performance Director Xavier Mestelan Pinon added: "It’s great to end the weekend with Sam leading the driver standings and it confirms the pace and the reliability of the DSV-03 Formula E car. Well done to the team, and of course the drivers, for this amazing achievement. It is a good omen for the future, and we’re looking forward to racing in Marrakesh."
Round 3 of the 2017/2018 FIA Formula E Championship takes place in Marrakesh on January 13 2018.