Hinchcliffe -- Turning Circles & Heading Home
Toronto, Canada (July 01, 2009) -- James Hinchcliffe heads back into Firestone Indy Lights Series action this weekend, Saturday 4th July, with the famed Watkins Glen International road course in New York playing host to Round 8 -- the series starting a run of three-straight road/street courses through the month of July.
'Hinch', who races the #7 HinchTown.com Dallara-Firestone for Sam Schmidt Motorsports, capped the recent spate of oval races with his first podium finish in the discipline, claiming third at the Iowa Speedway a couple of weeks back. On route to New York this week the 22-year-old Canadian reflected on the season to-date:
Q: You picked up your first oval-race podium last time out in Iowa, how does it feel to get a top-three in that discipline under your rookie-belt?
James Hinchcliffe (JH): "Well I have to say, with ovals this year there has been a lot of new experiences stuffed under my rookie-belt! Obviously this was one of the nicer ones! It was great to do it because I had set that goal firmly before the weekend that a podium was what we needed to achieve and we did it. For sure there is always room for improvement, but this shows progression and we were realistically within sight of the win, so that's a good feeling."
Q: Flat out, turn left -- surely that's all there is to oval racing though?
JH: "Flat out, turn left and don't hit the wall! (laughs) I have to laugh because that is the perception that so many people have about oval racing. Twelve months ago I was one of those people. Ok, I never thought it was easy and anyone could do it, but I certainly underestimated the subtle nuances of the craft. On top of that, the racing is great fun! I was skeptical that I would enjoy it at first, but Iowa was my favorite race of the year! It was non-stop action and just a ton of fun. That's why they say "don't knock it 'til you try it!"
Q: Are you bummed that now, after a strong result and some momentum turning circles, you're back to a string of street / road courses?
JH: "Of course it is bitter sweet. My oval results have been getting better and I still learn so much every time we rock up to an oval, and I love learning in my racecar. So from that perspective, it would be nice to keep the momentum going. Having said that, my background is road racing and we are coming up to some really cool tracks, so I'm stoked about that. And it's not like our street/road course performances this year have sucked! Hopefully we can just get that little bit more!"
Q: Other than being located in the middle of nowhere with no cellphone reception, what can you tell us about competing at Watkins Glen?
JH: "Ha, not much! Along with St. Pete, this is the only road/street course I haven't raced on yet. From what I have heard from other drivers it is a really cool track and I'm really excited about running here. It is fast and flowing and that tends to suit my style better then point-and-squirt tracks. We don't get a lot of track time before qualifying though, so getting the most out of practice and getting up to speed quick will be of paramount importance."
Q: After Watkins both the Indy Lights and IndyCar Series head to Toronto -- your hometown. What can fans expect from the new-look show?
JH: "I think that fans can expect the best IndyCar race Toronto has ever seen. With AGR now running the show you have a very qualified group of people, who have successfully run events before, new sponsors, new look. It's going to be awesome. And I think having lost the race last year, the fans will be really eager to come about and take it all in again. Like the saying goes, you don't know what you have 'til it's gone, and now people will want to make it to the race because they can't just take for granted that it will be there forever!"
Q: "You've raced around the world -- truth time, how do the home fans in Canada stack up against the competition?
JH: "I've maintained for years that Canadians are the best fans in open-wheel. We just love our motorsports and love supporting Canadian drivers and events. Having said that, those Dutch fans certainly give us a run for our money, I'm not going to lie. They win the category of most face paint worn by race fans, that's for sure! But I still think Canadian fans drink more beer. And that is saying something when comparing to the Dutch!"
Q: "Would you trade your earlier podiums and top-five points standing for a race win in Toronto?
JH: "Wow, there's a question. It would have to be a no, simply because my number one goal is the championship, and to win that you cannot give up podiums. For sure I want to win many races along the way. If you were to ask me what is the one race this year I would want to win more than any other? The answer is simple. Toronto. No question."
Q: "Looking ahead now that we're coming up for halfway through the season, how would you score yourself and what's still to come from James Hinchcliffe?
JH: "I would probably have to give myself an 8/10. I feel like we have done a solid job, but should have got a little more out of races like St. Pete race one, Long Beach and Milwaukee. Kansas and Indy were sort of out of our hands. The pace was there, the luck was not. That's the way it goes. I believe we have the pace to win, it is just getting that last little bit to click, which for sure is the hardest part. What's still to come? Well, there is the good news. The best is still to come."