James Hinchcliffe Q&A -- Countdown to Holland Montreal, Quebec (September 22, 2006) -- Following last week's announcement that Toronto's James Hinchcliffe (19) would join Vancouver's Sean McIntosh (21) in spearheading A1 Team Canada's attack in...
James Hinchcliffe Q&A -- Countdown to Holland
Montreal, Quebec (September 22, 2006) -- Following last week's announcement that Toronto's James Hinchcliffe (19) would join Vancouver's Sean McIntosh (21) in spearheading A1 Team Canada's attack in the 2006-07 A1GP World Cup of Motorsport, the unique open-wheel racing series which pitches 24 nations against each other around the world in identical 550bhp V8-powered A1GP cars from October through to April, James took time out from his busy schedule to preview his debut in the Canadian car at next weekend's season-opener at Circuit Park Zandvoort in Holland, 30th September -- 1st October.
Q: Heading into the first round of the new A1GP World Cup of Motorsport at Zandvoort, what are your expectations for the weekend?
JH: "Given that it's the start of a new series for me I'm obviously trying not to go in with too high expectations -- it's a lot easier to go down than it is up in this business! That said we're definitely going to go and try to do the best that we can, our pre-season pace was pretty good so there's no reason why we can't put the Canadian car solidly in the top-ten. If we can get something in the top-five then that's an even better way to start the season."
Q: How does Zandvoort stack up against tracks in North America?
JH: "There's absolutely nothing like it in North America. Zandvoort's really unique, there's tons of banking in the corners which is really fun but most of all it's the experience of racing with sand dunes on either side of you that amazes me. The whole character and atmosphere of the track is just so different to anything else I've seen before and I'm really looking forward to getting out and racing there."
Q: Given your pace in pre-season testing at Silverstone, setting the fastest afternoon time on the first day, does that add extra pressure or provide further incentive to deliver more of the same?
JH: "I think going into any race weekend there's always an external pressure that a driver feels but it's no way close to the pressure you put on yourself to perform. If anything being quick in pre-season testing takes a little bit of pressure off because we know the performance of the car and we know what we're capable of going up against the likes of some of the other front-running nations. I think that it also gives us a degree of confidence going to Zandvoort and hopefully we can use that to qualify at the sharp end of the grid."
Q: With Canada's rich history of producing world-class open-wheel racing stars, how does it feel to be selected to race for A1 Team Canada in A1GP?
JH: "Obviously it's an honor to be selected and it's true, for a country with a relatively small population we seem to produce an uncharacteristically high number of good racing drivers.
"I obviously fitted with what the team was looking for and hopefully I can do a good job for both team and country!"
Q: Did you follow A1GP last season and what were your impressions of the series?
JH: "I followed it loosely as unfortunately we didn't have a TV package for A1GP in Canada last season but I caught the races online when I could and obviously kept track of how the Canadian team was doing and how Sean (McIntosh) was getting on behind the wheel. From what I saw the racing looked phenomenal and as a result I'm really looking forward to getting in there and trying it out for myself.
Q: A1GP boasted drivers with Formula One, Champ Car and Indy Racing League experience last season. As a young driver making his debut in the series what are your goals for the 2006-07 season and how do you see yourself measuring up against the drivers from the other nations?
JH: "The goal is pretty simple and that's to win as many races as we can, score podiums and see where we're at by the end of the season. You can't really think championship attack yet as I'm only heading into the first race of the new A1GP season but it will give us a chance to measure ourselves against the rest of the field in competition as opposed to just testing.
"In terms of how I see myself stacking up against the other drivers, well we're all in the same car with the same engine and tires so I'm not really bothered what the other guys have raced in before as we're all in the same boat in A1GP and there's no reason why I can't be as quick as the next guy! We proved at Silverstone in pre-season that we can compete against teams with far more experienced drivers. It's exciting to be up against some of these guys but when the visor goes down they're all just regular competitors!"
Q: What are your impressions of A1GP's aggregate qualifying system and Sprint and Feature race format in comparison to your previous racing experiences?
JH: "I'm really looking forward to the Sprint and Feature race format. It's something I haven't really done since my days in karting but it'll be completely new at this level of competition. I've never seen anything like the aggregate qualifying system operated in A1GP with four timed runs to set an aggregate time based on your two fastest laps.
"It's going to be interesting and I'm sure a degree of strategy comes into it as well -- I think that's where teamwork really comes into play in A1GP, making sure the right call's made a the right time, both team and driver have to work in absolute harmony. It's going to be a challenge as I'm used to timed sessions as opposed to one-lap runs but as I said, I'm looking forward to it."
Q: Zandvoort has sold 100,000 tickets for the opening race, have you raced in front of such a sizeable crowd before and one so passionate about motorsport?
JH: "Well I've raced in a couple of support events to the Formula One race in Montreal and that's always a sizeable gathering and one equally passionate and knowledgeable when it comes to motorsport. I'm sure Zandvoort's going to feel pretty similar but just in terms of soaking up the atmosphere, it'll be Jos Verstappen (A1 Team Holland) getting all the cheers from the crowd next weekend. When you're in the car and the visor's down the crowd's not really a factor in what you do but I'm just really excited to be competing in an event that can attract that level of attention and hopefully we can put on a good show for the fans that turn up."
Q: What's the single biggest thing that's struck you about A1GP?
JH: "It's probably a tie between the level of talent that's in the series, because teams can pick drivers from anything from Formula BMW through to Formula One making it so widespread, to the quality of venues were going to be racing at! The most exotic place I've ever raced in is California so when you get to go to places like China, Malaysia, South Africa and Europe with A1GP it's a fantastic opportunity to sample different cultures and race in countries that you might never have dreamed of being in."
James Hinchcliffe will be first up on duty driving for A1 Team Canada in Round 1 of the 2006-07 A1GP season at Circuit Park Zandvoort in Holland on Sunday 1st October. Hinchcliffe's A1 Team Canada team-mate, Sean McIntosh, will also be in action that weekend as he'll be competing in the penultimate round of the World Series By Renault, where he currently sits seventh overall in his rookie season, hosted at Le Mans, France.
Following Holland the A1GP schedule moves on to the Czech Republic for Round 2, Sunday 8th October, before visiting the likes of China, Malaysia, Indonesia, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Mexico and Great Britain.