Hinchcliffe Eyeing Successful Start at Long Beach Toronto, Canada (April 15, 2008) -- James Hinchcliffe will kick off his title bid for the 2008 Cooper Tires Presents The Atlantic Championship Powered by Mazda this weekend with Round 1 of the...
Hinchcliffe Eyeing Successful Start at Long Beach
Toronto, Canada (April 15, 2008) -- James Hinchcliffe will kick off his title bid for the 2008 Cooper Tires Presents The Atlantic Championship Powered by Mazda this weekend with Round 1 of the 11-race series hosted on the famed streets of Long Beach, California at the 34th running of the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach, Friday 18th -- Sunday 20th April.
Piloting the #3 INDECK Swift Mazda-Cosworth for Forsythe Pettit Racing, the 21-year-old Canadian returns to the scene of his first-ever Atlantic podium having taken third at Long Beach on his series debut back in 2006, also with the Indianapolis-based outfit.
Hinchcliffe returns to the team after a season's absence and off the back of a fourth place finish in last year's championship, his sophomore campaign producing a total of five podium visits from nine top-ten finishes. James' qualifying form was also amongst the best on the grid with the Toronto-resident wracking up no fewer than six front-row starts including three pole positions.
Not one to dwell on previous accomplishments, Hinchcliffe heads into the new season of Atlantic competition determined to take the title. The omens bode well with Forsythe Pettit Racing, fielding Mexico's David Garza alongside James in 2008, comfortably amongst the front-runners in pre-season testing. Hinchcliffe topped both days of testing at Sebring in February and ran competitively at further tests at Laguna Seca and MSR Houston.
With the time for testing and talking firmly over, all that matters now is what happens on track this weekend on the 1.968-mile temporary street-circuit at Long Beach. While the Pacific venue was kind to Hinchcliffe in 2006, last year's event proved less memorable with a disappointing tenth place qualifying effort subsequently leading to a seventh place finish after brake issues marred his weekend.
"I'm looking forward to getting the new season started," stated Hinchcliffe ahead of his trip to California. "Long Beach offers one of the best atmosphere's in terms of all the circuits we visit and there's such a rich history to the event as well. This will be kind of special being there for the last ever Champ Car weekend as well. It's a great street circuit, definitely one of the best I've raced at and it offers a bit of everything really. It's challenging but there are some decent overtaking zones if everything's going to plan which is good for the drivers and importantly for the fans watching!
"In most racing categories over the past couple of years the eventual champion has tended to make a precedent early in the season. Titles are often won by having a strong first-quarter of the season and keeping up from there. My goal for after the first couple of races is to hopefully have a decent point lead which can then be protected. A strong result this weekend in Long Beach is the first step to making that happen!"
Despite not adding to his Portland victory from his rookie Atlantic season in 2006, 'Hinch' was an ever-present threat for wins in 2007 and his form, both on and off track, was recognized as he was presented with the prestigious 'Gilles Villeneuve Award' at the end of the season -- the award traditionally given to the Atlantic driver who posses extraordinary ability, star quality and who has distinguished himself through sportsmanship, dedication and perseverance in the face of disappointment. Similarly, James found himself nominated for the 'Greg Moore Legacy Award', the only Atlantic driver and only Canadian to make the short-list for the honour named after the late Champ Car star from British Columbia.
Round 1 of the 2008 Cooper Tires Presents The Atlantic Championship Powered by Mazda gets underway in Long Beach at 10:35am (PST), Sunday 20th April 2008 -- www.longbeachgp.com