Early Street Exit Frustrates Hinchcliffe Trois-Rivieres, Quebec (August 17, 2008) -- A solitary point was all that the streets of Trois-Rivieres gifted Toronto's James Hinchcliffe as an early race incident saw the title contender ...
Early Street Exit Frustrates Hinchcliffe
Trois-Rivieres, Quebec (August 17, 2008) -- A solitary point was all that the streets of Trois-Rivieres gifted Toronto's James Hinchcliffe as an early race incident saw the title contender classified 20th after failing to finish his first race of the season in Round 8 of the 2008 Cooper Tires Presents The Atlantic Championship Powered by Mazda.
The Canadian's championship hopes took a dent in the process as his American title rivals Jonathan Bomarito and Jonathan Summerton finished 1-2 at the 1.521-mile Quebec street circuit on Sunday and now sit 1-2 respectively in the Driver Standings with three rounds remaining. Hinchcliffe dropped a spot to third, eight points behind second-placed Summerton (163-155), marking the first time since the second round that the Forsythe Pettit Racing driver hasn't occupied first or second in the championship chase.
James' weekend got off to a solid start as he steered the #3 INDECK/TireRack.com Swift Mazda-Cosworth to third on the time charts in Friday's qualifying session, 'Hinch' posting a tour of 1m00.121s (91.076mph). With lap times significantly faster the following day, the fight for pole remained equally tight with title-leader Bomarito locking up his second-straight pole position with a 58.989s (92.824mph) charge. Chasing a set-up to try and be equally competitive, James recorded a 59.484s (92.052mph) lap which would ultimately leave him a disappointing seventh on the grid for Sunday's race -- his second lowest starting slot after a tenth place effort in the opening round at Long Beach.
Looking to gain ground at the start of Sunday afternoon's 44-lap street sprint, a good start saw Hinchcliffe briefly climb a spot to sixth only to lose it again by the end of the opening tour. As the field settled he then had a clear view of an early incident which involved Carl Skerlong and Markus Niemela which allowed him to gain a place before handling problems of his own would come into play -- the back end of his car now loose around the tight temporary street course.
A slide coming onto the start-finish straight at the end of lap six allowed fellow Canadian Kevin Lacroix a brief look at James for position as they gunned down to the first turn. While Hinchcliffe held his line through the corner Lacroix then attempted a lunge into Turn 2 which resulted in contact and instant retirement for both drivers. Jonathan Bomarito became the first Atlantic winner at Trois-Rivieres since the series last raced there in 2003 with Summerton second and Holland's Junior Strous placing third.
"It's really unfortunate what happened," declared James post-race. "I thought it was a very optimistic move by Lacroix and frustrating as he was clearly quicker than me, he should have seen I was struggling with the rear and therefore he must have known he'd have been able to get by cleanly probably through the next two turns. I just thought it was an impatient thing to do and it ended up costing us both which is obviously pretty annoying.
"It was a bummer of a weekend but we really didn't help ourselves. We put ourselves in danger of having something like this happen by qualifying as badly as we did. As a team we simply need to improve when we get to the next race to make sure we can avoid incidents like this and really put up a strong fight over the final three rounds."