Hinchcliffe Dominates Atlantic Field at Laguna Seca Monterey, California (May 18, 2008) -- James Hinchcliffe dominated Round 2 of the 2008 Cooper Tires Presents The Atlantic Championship Powered by Mazda to take the points lead of the...
Hinchcliffe Dominates Atlantic Field at Laguna Seca
Monterey, California (May 18, 2008) -- James Hinchcliffe dominated Round 2 of the 2008 Cooper Tires Presents The Atlantic Championship Powered by Mazda to take the points lead of the 11-round series having swept the timesheets in qualifying and triumphed in Sunday's 35-lap race at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in Monterey, California.
The 21-year-old Toronto resident scored his fifth career Atlantic pole position on Saturday, breaking the existing track record behind the wheel of the 300bhp #3 INDECK/TireRack.com Swift Mazda-Cosworth. 'Hinch' duly converted pole into his second series victory and first since Round 4 at Portland International Raceway in 2006, his rookie season in Atlantics.
James arrived at the 2.238-mile Laguna Seca track on Friday determined to kick start his title bid after a frustrating opening round in Long Beach ended with a tenth place finish. A front-runner from the off, the Canadian blitzed the opposition in Friday's first qualifying session. A hot lap of 1m17.541s (103.904mph) secured the Forsythe Pettit Racing driver provisional pole, and a guaranteed front-row slot, but he wasn't done with that!
Saturday's final qualifying outing proved to be memorable as Hinchcliffe again dominated and in doing so broke the series track record with a stunning lap time of 1m16.189s (105.748mph). His performance sealed the deal on pole position, his first since Round 7 in Edmonton last season, with America's Carl Skerlong alongside James on the front-row of the grid.
It was Skerlong who made the most of the standing start on Sunday afternoon, the sophomore racer leading the field into the first turn with Hinchcliffe tucked up behind. The Canadian reclaimed the lead at a re-start on lap six and held his own through to the checkered flag 31 tours later making it back-to-back victories at Laguna Seca having won the Star Mazda race on his previous outing at the Monterey track in 2005. James' margin of victory over Skerlong was 2.391s with Junior Strous from The Netherlands completing the podium celebrations.
"I totally botched the start which allowed Carl to lead," Hinchcliffe reflected post-race. "Thankfully I got him on the re-start at the second turn. I was a little worried when there was another full course caution, I thought I might be a sitting duck at the re-start but the car was really strong off the final corner and I managed to get a decent gap to protect my lead. From there I was able to control the pace and take the win.
"We're back where we want to be now; this was the real start to our season. The team did an awesome job, they worked really hard and the result speaks for itself. It was great to give our team manager, John Brunner, a win on his birthday but it was hard work. This was a challenging, hot, physical race but thankfully my fitness training with Jim Leo from Pit Fit paid dividends today!"