Servia & Hinchcliffe Look Forward to Their Return
The Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach (TGPLB) will mark the team’s 28th consecutive entry in the famed street event that first hosted Indy car racing in 1984.
Telemundo driver Oriol Servia qualified sixth and finished fifth in the previous race -- the Honda Indy GP of Alabama while Sprott driver James Hinchcliffe qualified eighth for his IndyCar Series debut but retired in 24th place after being collected in a multi-car accident. Both drivers are looking forward to the most famous street race on the schedule – the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach.
“The track layout makes for a busy Sunday for the drivers and an action-packed race for the audience,” said Servia. “It will be a non-stop fight for all the positions throughout the grid. The field is the most competitive I have ever seen and at a track like Long Beach, that translates to a lot of battles on every lap. I expect a good number of yellows and "interesting" double file restarts.”
“The whole track is a challenge!” added Hinchcliffe, who will make his street course debut in an Indy car this weekend. “It has some pretty quick corners for a street course, but then also the slowest corner of the year. There is a nice long straight and a great passing opportunity into Turn 1. The fountain section is really unique and it can be a bit of a compromise on setup. If we get some cautions and alternate strategies then this race can really come alive!”
ORIOL AND JAMES ON THE TRADITIONAL “ROAR BY THE SHORE”
“I think the Long Beach race is a perfect example of how important tradition is,” said Servia. “There has been Indy car racing here for 28 years and it shows that continuity of a sporting event equals success. There are many families that have been attending this race every year through different generations. It becomes a perfect excuse for a reunion of family and friends. It obviously helps that it happens in an area that reaches out to all the Los Angeles city surroundings.”
“Long Beach is incredible because of the history,” added Hinchcliffe. “You can make all the new events that you want, and they might be great, but it's hard to replicate history. It takes time to build up an event to the level of Long Beach and they have done such a good job with that event since its inception. The fans, the atmosphere, the track itself; there are so many elements that come together to make it such a great race. I think the longevity of this event speaks volumes for the work the organizers, the promoters and the city have done over the years. And then you look at Newman/Haas Racing's results here and it speaks volumes of the work and preparation the team has done over the years. It's a track the team knows well so I believe that we will roll off the trailer with competitive cars. I think we had a strong street course car in St Pete; we just missed it a bit on the red Firestone tires. But Oriol did a great job to get into the top 10 after having a hectic start to the race. Hopefully we can have a clean, fast weekend and I can add something notable to both my own and the teams Long Beach resume.”
SECOND & FIFTH PLACE FOR ORIOL IN TWO PREVIOUS LONG BEACH RACES
This year’s event will mark Oriol’s tenth Indy car race here, first with NHR and first since 2008. His best finishes here are second in 2007 with Forsythe and fifth in 2008 with KV Racing. In 9 events, he has two top-five, three top-10 (including sixth in his rookie debut here in 2000) and eight top-15 finishes. “I have really missed not participating in the race the last two years. I have had great fun and success at this track and I cannot wait to get this one going. It helps going into a race weekend where the team and myself have had success separately as it can only get better together. I have finished second and team has won it many times so mixing our experience should create a nice combination for the Telemundo team.
I have had great fun and success at this track and I cannot wait to get this one going.
“Long Beach is as unpredictable as any other street race. The slippery surface and the tight corners with walls do not allow for any mistakes. The last two times I raced here I had problems in qualifying but then in the race, by pushing hard and making no mistakes, I was able to get to the front. The Newman/Haas Racing team is also very good with the race strategy so I know that if I do not make mistakes we will be at the front by the end of the race.”
JAMES ON HIS DEBUT AT BARBER LAST WEEKEND
“I would say there was about the right amount of pressure,” Hinchcliffe said of his debut in the IZOD IndyCar Series last weekend at Barber Motorsports Park. “You know, going into the weekend as the rookie making his debut, everyone's expectations were quite controlled. Then we had a great day on Saturday and I think that actually took some pressure off. We proved we could be pretty competitive and so I could just sort of let Sunday unfold as it would. The race obviously didn't go as planned, but we had turned my first lap mistake into a good strategy and were running just outside the top-10 and leading rookie when the incident took us out. At the end of the day we are going racing, which is something I've done my whole life and I only really respond to the pressure that I put on myself.”
JAMES ON GETTING HIS “HEART RATE UP A BIT” AT HIS FIRST STREET RACE IN AN INDY CAR
“If I'm honest, when we finally got our deal done, I was actually looking forward to driving around Long Beach as much, if not more, than Barber and that’s saying a lot. It is a track that is just such a pleasure to drive, and the thought of doing it way faster than I ever have before got the heart rate up a little bit! It will be my first street race in an Indy car, so that brings with it some feelings of apprehension, but I'll just take it one lap at a time and see how it all shakes out.”
ORIOL ON PROGRESS FROM OFF-SEASON TESTING TO FIGHTING WITH OTHER TOP TEAMS
“The Barber test was great for the whole team as we proved that we can be fighting consistently with top teams. At St. Pete, we had the speed at some points of the weekend but we lost track at a couple of key moments that really hurt our overall performance. Having two cars that push each other and allow us to try different things on the setup was a huge help for race weekend at Barber in order to maintain our competitiveness over the weekend. At Long Beach, with the track changing as much as it will from session to session, it will be even more important. We got a taste of the podium at Barber and we definitely liked it. That makes everybody push even more to try to achieve it.”
IT FEELS LIKE HOME TO SERVIA
It will be my first street race in an Indy car, so that brings with it some feelings of apprehension...
“Homestead-Miami used to be my home race but we do not race there anymore and now that I have been spending more time in LA because my girlfriend and my trainer are here, I consider Long Beach to be my home race,” said the Spaniard. “I do have lot of support from the fans here as I have raced at this track since 1998 and it is one of the races with a bigger Hispanic attendance so all of that helps in my favor. It happens to also be a very important area for our sponsor Telemundo and all their associates so all of those things together make this event even more special than it already normally is.
“We want to perform well at every race for ourselves and our sponsors but it becomes crucial at places where your sponsor has a big presence,” continued Servia. “California in general, but especially Los Angeles, is a market where Telemundo has huge influence so not only do we want to show well in front of all their executives but we also want to use the opportunity to shine with a good race and use the huge exposure that Telemundo and all their associates will give us with the Hispanic audience.”
ORIOL ON TWO-WIDE RESTARTS AND HORSEPOWER + BRAIN POWER
The series instituted two-wide restarts at the season-opener two race ago and it has produced action as well as crashes. The famed Long Beach street course features a tight hairpin turn that has seen its share of exciting moments. This is conjunction with the tight confines of street-course racing could contribute to more exciting moments this weekend. “Busy, busy!” Servia said of what he expects the two-wide restarts to be in Long Beach. “It will take a lot drivers using their brains for us to have clean restarts every time at this track and we all know that although most drivers have brains we somehow seem to not be able to use them at all times during races. It will be very interesting. I think as the season goes by we are learning that we don't need to do all the magic at every restart as most probably there will be more restarts and opportunities to advance. But again, it takes a cold mind to process that during a race and we can all get a little too carried away at certain stages of the race.”
JAMES ON TWO-WIDE RESTARTS AND “MOODS”
“I think the restarts were better in Barber although they definitely still created incidents,” said Hinchcliffe. “People were getting through Turns 1 and 2 just fine but down in the hairpin everyone was still quite packed up and it obviously created some trouble. I think from a procedural point of view it was 100 percent better and now we just need to still get everyone to respect their own and everyone else's equipment and we will be ok.” On his expectation of the success of two-wide restarts in Long Beach, Hinchcliffe said: “It all depends on what kind of mood everyone is in! I imagine we will have another (drivers) meeting on Friday and talk about Barber; what went well, what needs to be worked on. There is obviously a big hazard because it's a big brake zone in Turn 1 and if something does go wrong, there are walls on both sides and nowhere for a wreck to go and we could get a blockage. On the traditional starts in Long Beach we have seen a lot perfectly clean starts so hopefully this is something we can do on the start and then replicate on any restart.”
JAMES ON HIS GOALS FOR LONG BEACH WEEKEND
we have seen a lot perfectly clean starts so hopefully this is something we can do on the start and then replicate on any restart.
This year’s race will mark Hinchcliffe’s sixth on this track and first in an Indy car here. He returns to the streets of Long Beach after winning last year’s Firestone Indy Lights race from pole for Sam Schmidt Motorsports. He competed in Atlantic Series races here in 2006, 2007 and 2008 and in the Firestone Indy Lights Series here in 2009 and 2010. He looks forward to his return to the track after last year’s success. “Goal Number 1 is to finish the race. Obviously the DNF at Barber wasn't our fault, but still, staying out of other people's messes is as much a skill as not creating your own! So I think that is my main goal. If we make it to the checkered, then I am hoping to be top rookie. I have always loved coming to Long Beach. It was my first Atlantic race back in 2006 and we finished on the podium (third), so that was a great memory. But for sure the best memory was last year. Getting pole here last year was terrific and then leading flag-to-flag to take my first win in Indy Lights at a place with so much history was a really cool feeling.”
MORE INFORMATION = BETTER PREPARATION FOR SERVIA AND HINCHCLIFFE AT LONG BEACH
To prepare for each race, the drivers are given “engineering reports” for the venue that includes specific information on car setup through the years and details of each race that has taken place at that track. With the team having competed in Long Beach 27 times, there is a wealth of data to tap into. “The engineering reports at NHR, before and after each race, are a fountain of knowledge no matter what track we are "attacking" but if definitely becomes even more interesting when they are about a track where the team has had so much success and experience,” said Servia. His teammate agrees. “The biggest difference is just how much information the team has to look back on,” added Hinchcliffe. “For Barber, they only had one race weekend to pull information off of and only one race to compare to in terms of strategy and setup. With Long Beach, the pool of knowledge is so deep, a lot of the time they can look at how THEY won the race rather than how someone else did. So I think this makes everyone that much more prepared and it very well could raise the team’s expectations internally.”
JAMES ON THE BENEFIT OF A BETTER PIT LOCATION
New for 2011 is the selection of pit locations based on qualifying position at the previous event. In the past it was based on point standings. With Servia and Hinchcliffe qualifying sixth and eighth respectively at the previous road course in Alabama, they moved much closer to pit out. James, who was pitted in the second from last pit in his debut at Barber, believes this will help the team. “Being closer to pit out is huge, especially for qualifying,” said Hinchcliffe. “If a situation develops where a yellow flag ends with only a few minutes to go in the session, the guys closer to pit out might have the chance to get one extra lap before the clock runs out and that could make all the difference. Plus it just feels good to be up there with the top teams. It gives our team a better view of who we’re chasing!”