Hinchcliffe Takes Tenth in Season Opener Long Beach, California (April 20, 2008) -- James Hinchcliffe opened the 2008 Cooper Tires Presents The Atlantic Championship Powered by Mazda season with a tenth place finish on the streets of Long ...
Hinchcliffe Takes Tenth in Season Opener
Long Beach, California (April 20, 2008) -- James Hinchcliffe opened the 2008 Cooper Tires Presents The Atlantic Championship Powered by Mazda season with a tenth place finish on the streets of Long Beach, California on Sunday -- the 21-year-old Canadian a victim of the nature of street racing following a frustrating final qualifying session the day before.
Piloting the #3 INDECK/Tire Rack Swift Mazda-Cosworth for Forsythe Pettit Racing, Hinchcliffe's return to the 1.968-mile temporary street circuit looked promising as he set the fastest time in Friday's opening practice for the Indianapolis-based squad. Back at the track where he scored a third place podium finish on his series debut in 2006, James topped the 23-car field with a lap time of 1m16.7266s, two tenths clear of America's Jonathan Bomarito for Mathiasen Motorsports.
Friday afternoon's first qualifying session would see Bomarito claim top spot and the provisional pole while 'Hinch' claimed fourth to cap a promising first day back in anger for the Toronto-resident. Unfortunately for the Canadian that was as good as the weekend would get with Saturday's final qualifying outing blighted by a fruitless set-up chase. While Bomarito cemented his pole position for Sunday's season opener, James was left frustrated with a tenth place starting slot -- only too aware having scored the exact same position the year before just how difficult it is to gain ground racing on the tight confines posed by the Long Beach layout.
Sixth fastest in Sunday morning's final practice run, Hinchcliffe was at least armed with a more competitive race car heading into the 50-minute race but as predicted, Round 1 would turn out to be a static affair with little in the way of on-track passing throughout the running order. Gaining a spot to ninth on the opening lap, James held station to lap 29 when he lost the position to Condor Motorsport's Junior Strous shortly after the race's solitary caution period. Setting lap times comparable to the race leaders, James was left to rue the previous day's qualifying session as he took the checkered flag tenth overall on lap 38.
Simona De Silvestro scored her maiden win for Newman Wachs Racing, the Swiss racer joined on the podium by America's Alan Sciuto (Genoa Racing) and Canada's Kevin Lacroix (Walker Racing).
"We took a bit of a risk in trying something different in Saturday qualifying," reflected Hinchcliffe. "Ultimately it didn't pay off and that pretty much put paid to our weekend. With this series being as competitive as it is and Long Beach being the kind of circuit it is, we knew it would be hard to improve on our starting slot. I was probably a bit quicker than some of the guys ahead of me but without them making some kind of mistake it was going to be almost impossible to move up.
"The car wasn't terrible by any means but we were chasing set-up a little after Friday and today's race was just frustrating, almost verging on boring to be honest. It's tough to be in the pack like that; you have to stay focused and be prepared to capitalize on someone else's mistake while making sure you don't make any yourself! We're going for the title this season so we just can't afford to have another weekend like this. We'll regroup on Monday and figure things out so we're stronger next time out."