Hinchcliffe takes Laguna Seca provisional pole

Canadian driver James Hinchcliffe gave a whole new meaning to the term "hot driver" on a track with a temperature of 125 degrees F (and air temperature of 97 F), while running the quickest lap of 1.17.541 during Friday's Atlantic Championship ...

Canadian driver James Hinchcliffe gave a whole new meaning to the term "hot driver" on a track with a temperature of 125 degrees F (and air temperature of 97 F), while running the quickest lap of 1.17.541 during Friday's Atlantic Championship qualifying session. The self-proclaimed "Mayor of Hinchtown" credits a retooled engineering effort by the Forsythe/Petit team in the weeks since Long Beach for the #3 car's improved performance.

"The car was just awesome" according to Hinchcliffe, who went on to remark, "hopefully we can get a legitimate pole tomorrow". When asked about his strategy in winning the provisional pole, he noted that it was to "finish with a faster lap time than the other drivers".

Yes, press conferences with Hinch are always entertaining, but it should be noted that second place provisional qualifier Kevin Lacroix also attended and credited part of his performance to the help of his new driver coach, Alex Tagliani. The teenaged driver, who likes Tagliani, hails from Quebec, said, "For sure, for me, there is still some (speed) to gain". He and many of the other drivers are hoping for an anticipated cooler day for Saturday's final qualifying.

The weekend's Atlantics field boasts two Finnish drivers, and one, rookie Markus Niemela, was third quickest Friday. Markus, who reminds us of Kimi Raikkonen with his personality and multiple voice inflections, said he didn't take the top position because "I am very bad". All of the drivers noted that the track was quite dirty, especially in the morning, and that plus all of the changes that the Brooks Associates Racing team made on his car are more likely reasons for ending up third in spite of quickness throughout the day.

Missing from this weekend's field are Orange County's Alan Sciuto, sidelined from driving this weekend due to a shoulder injury and Long Beach starters Greg Minium, Mike Forest, and Brian Thienes. Twenty cars are scheduled to take the green flag on Sunday afternoon when the Atlantic Series will have its first appearance at Laguna Seca as the featured race.

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Series Atlantic
Drivers Kimi Raikkonen , Alex Tagliani , Kevin Lacroix , Alan Sciuto , James Hinchcliffe , Brian Thienes , Markus Niemela , Greg Minium , Mike Forest