Eighth Place Finish Little Comfort for Canadian Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin (August 10, 2008) -- Round 7 of the 2008 Cooper Tires Presents The Atlantic Championship Powered by Mazda brought title challenger James Hinchcliffe little in the way of...
Eighth Place Finish Little Comfort for Canadian
Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin (August 10, 2008) -- Round 7 of the 2008 Cooper Tires Presents The Atlantic Championship Powered by Mazda brought title challenger James Hinchcliffe little in the way of joy as the Canadian was forced to settle for an eighth place finish at Road America on Sunday and a loss of the points lead he'd held since Round 5 in Edmonton a fortnight ago.
The Toronto racer remains firmly in the championship battle despite a frustrating weekend in Wisconsin. Surrendering his place at the head of the pack to America's Jonathan Bomarito, who enjoyed a win on Saturday and second place podium finish on Sunday, Hinchcliffe lies just three points shy of the lead (157-154), while a mere six points separates the top three challengers with Finland's Markus Niemela currently third on 151 markers in what's shaping up to be one of the closest Atlantic Championship battles in recent memory.
Road America's double-header kicked off relatively well for James, qualifying third and finishing fifth in Round 6 on Saturday. The 21-year-old was far from satisfied with his pace and progress though so a more radical set-up approach was targeted for his #3 INDECK/TireRack.Com Swift Mazda-Cosworth for Sunday's race meeting where he'd start from sixth on the grid for Forsythe Pettit Racing.
A solid start promoted James briefly into the top-five only to drop back out as the opening lap continued. After that it was a case of settling into a rhythm on the sweeping 4.08-mile circuit as he targeted a top-five finish while holding a comfortable gap from his pursuers despite battling an ill-handling race car. A full-course caution period quickly eradicated his advantage and at the following re-start, 'Hinch' found himself tumbling down the running order.
Some late-race dicing and clever driving allowed James to claw his way back up to eighth by the checkered on lap 20 but he was left to rue a disappointing race weekend by recent standards. Newman Wachs Racing's Jonathan Summerton collected his second win of the season, the American rookie joined on the podium by points leader Jonathan Bomarito and third placed Tonis Kasemets.
"We tried to go for a super-low downforce set-up today but I think we just ended up going a little too far," explained Hinchcliffe post-race. "We really need to go back now and look over everything we did this weekend and possibly forget it ever happened! There's some comfort in the fact that while I've lost the points lead it's still extremely tight. We really shouldn't be in second place though as we should never have allowed ourselves to lose as many points as we did here at Road America.
"I can guarantee you that this will really fire the team up to try and come back stronger for the final four races. We don't have a choice if we want to remain in the title fight; we just had an off weekend. This thing is by no means over and it's exciting for the fans to see such a tight championship but I really expected more from our trip to Wisconsin!"
The Atlantic Championship heads back north for a fourth and final race in Canada with Quebec's Trois Rivieres street circuit hosting Round 8, Friday 15th -- Sunday 17th August -- www.gp3r.com