Cleveland Recovery Helps Hinchcliffe Hold Second A barnstorming drive from Toronto's James Hinchcliffe saw him fire his ...
Cleveland Recovery Helps Hinchcliffe Hold Second
A barnstorming drive from Toronto's James Hinchcliffe saw him fire his #9 NOCO/ProWorks entry from 26th, and last, following an opening lap incident, to sixth place when the checkered fell after 42 laps around the Burke Lakefront Airport road course in Cleveland on Sunday in Round 6 of the Cooper Tires Presents The Champ Car Atlantic Championship Powered by Mazda.
The Sierra Sierra Enterprises racer had again showed his pace earlier in qualifying at the 2.106-mile track. With a best lap of 1m05.545s (115.670mph), set in Saturday's qualifying session, 'Hinch' was only beaten to his third straight pole position by his team-mate and current series leader, Raphael Matos. The Brazilian captured his third pole of 2007, his advantage over James a mere tenth of a second, the Sierra Sierra duo sharing the front-row of the Atlantic grid for the second time in six races.
Sunday's 50-minute race meeting, the halfway stage of the 12-round series, saw the 26-strong field launch themselves from a standing start into the notorious funneling first turn. Initially dropping down to fourth from second, James clawed back a spot only for disaster to strike two turns later. Having run three wide approaching turn three with J.R. Hildebrand and Franck Perera, it was Hinchcliffe and Hildebrand that held out for the turn but the pair would clash at the next one with the American collecting the right side of the Canadian's car and looping him around while the field darted past.
Having dropped back to dead last the 20-year-old began his charge through the field in one of the drives of the season. Enjoying the fastest car on the track, setting fastest lap of the race along the way, James steadily progressed through the tail-end order, climbing to 13th by lap 16 when the only full-course caution of the day presented itself. This quickly wiped Matos' race lead and when racing resumed a few laps later it was game on as the pack gave chase.
James wasted little time in cracking the top-ten and by lap 26 he was hot on the heels of former Champ Car racer Ronnie Bremer in seventh. Passing the Danish veteran for seventh on the next lap James soon lined up Jonathan Bomarito in sixth. The American fended Hinchcliffe's advances for four laps but succumbed to the #9 entry with James' stunning recovery placing him sixth with 10 laps to go. Fifth on-track was held by fellow-Canadian and Round 4 winner Robert Wickens.
While James slashed the rookie's advantage to less than a second in the dying stages of the race the pair held station taking the checkered flag in fifth and sixth respectively -- the Toronto natives locked together in the points chase behind Matos, three points the difference between the duo, 143-140 in Hinchcliffe's favor. Matos duly scored his fourth win, the Brazilian joined on the podium by America's J.R. Hildebrand in second and France's Franck Perera in third.
"When incidents like that happen you immediately switch to thinking about points," James stated. "The first lap was gutting but I put my head down and concentrated on making up some space. The corners here make it pretty hard to pass but my engineer, Dave Bushmeyer, gave me such a quick and consistent race car so I was really able to put it where I wanted to without making mistakes. That was probably the most fun I've had in a race car, I felt like I won!"
Round 7 of the 2007 Champ Car Atlantic Championship moves north of the border to Canada, Friday 29th June -- Sunday 1st July, and a brand new event held at the Circuit Mont-Tremblant, Quebec.