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15 April 2018

Victory for Sam in Formula E's Rome debut

Sam Bird took a historic victory in the inaugural Formula E race in Rome, resisting late charges by Mitch Evans and Lucas di Grassi to clinch victory.

Sam celebrates victory in Rome

"I sit here very proud to be the winner of the first-ever Rome E-Prix," said the DS Virgin Racing driver afterwards.

"As an event, the crowd was massive, everybody looked like they were having fun. The team has done a great job today and we're all looking forward to the Paris race in two weeks' time."

The victory moves both Sam and DS Virgin Racing into second place in the driver and team championship standings.

It was his seventh win since the launch of the ground-breaking electric racing series, and his second in a high-profile debut race after sweeping last season's New York double-header.

In front of a capacity Rome crowd Sam looked quick all day around the specially built Circuto Cittadino dell'EUR street track, taking second spot in both opening practices and in qualifying.

The race itself built to a fever pitch over the 33 laps, with Felix Rosenqvist seemingly in control until his aggression on the kerbs ended his day. This promoted Sam to the lead, where he comfortably managed the gap to the battles behind him.

But, as the race reached its latter stages, the gap was closed by several rivals who had pitted a lap later and so had more energy available for a late challenge. Despite Evans and di Grassi looming large in his mirrors, Sam was able to successfully defend his position and claim victory.

The result vaults him to within striking distance of the championship lead, narrowing Jean-Eric Vergne's advantage to just 18 points.

Sam, who earlier in the week had been blessed by the Pope at a special event organised by Formula E, said: "I was able to catch Felix towards the end of the first stint but there were some quick cars behind me.

"I didn’t know what happened to him - apparently, he hit a kerb too hard and broke the suspension, which is a shame for him - but that gave me the lead.

"I had to get my head down again and try and position my car in the right places at the right time with the right amount of energy for the last lap, because I knew Lucas would be hunting me. So I tried to give myself the best scenario and it worked out well."

DS Virgin Racing Team Principal Alex Tai said: "I'm delighted for Sam and for the team. The Rome event has been fantastic, so huge credit to Formula E.

"Sam does have a habit of winning on new tracks – like his double victory at the inaugural New York race last year – or maybe it was the blessing from the Pope! Either way, we're delighted and grateful to the whole team for their continuous hard work."

Formula E is next in action for round 8, which takes place in Paris on April 28.