Hinchcliffe Takes Fourth In Vegas Toronto, Canada (April 09, 2007) -- James Hinchcliffe opened his title bid for the 2007 Cooper Tires Presents The Champ Car Atlantic Championship Powered by Mazda by steering his way to a fourth place finish...
Hinchcliffe Takes Fourth In Vegas
Toronto, Canada (April 09, 2007) -- James Hinchcliffe opened his title bid for the 2007 Cooper Tires Presents The Champ Car Atlantic Championship Powered by Mazda by steering his way to a fourth place finish on Sunday (8th April) in the inaugural 'Vegas Grand Prix'. Round 1's action on the 2.44-mile Las Vegas street circuit was tempered by a total of four caution periods, the stop-start nature of the racing hampering Hinchcliffe's efforts having started the 50-minute race on the front-row alongside fellow-Canadian and pole-sitter Robert Wickens.
James' sophomore Atlantic campaign got off to a strong start on Friday afternoon, the 20-year-old from Toronto sealing provisional pole and a guaranteed front-row start for Sunday's race by powering his way to the top of the timesheets in first qualifying. 'Hinch', competing in the #9 NOCO-ProWorks entry for Sierra Sierra Enterprises, lapped the temporary street course in 1m32.410 (95.055mph) to lead the 27-car field at the end of the first day's running in Las Vegas.
Saturday's second qualifying session proved to be a frustrating affair for the Canadian as he looked to build on Friday's efforts and capture pole for the season opener. Contact with the wall at the Turn 11 tunnel brought James' challenge to an abrupt end early in the session, his best lap time on Saturday still comfortably inside the top-ten runners. Despite the obvious disappointment of crashing out, Hinchcliffe's Friday success ensured he'd take the standing start for Sunday's race on the front-row with Forsythe Racing's Robert Wickens capturing pole on Saturday with a flying lap of 1m30.934s (96.598mph).
Following an entertaining Champ Car World Series debut race in Vegas, the Champ Car Atlantic field took to the grid for their own crack at entertaining the residents and race fans of 'Sin City'. The all-Canadian front-row rocketed off the line to herald the start of what would be an incident filled event with no fewer than 15 cars set to retire as the race unfolded.
It was the first of four caution periods that allowed Hinchcliffe to grab the lead from Wickens as he got the jump on his rookie rival into the first turn at the re-start. It proved to be short-lived however as a second caution period followed with Wickens turning the tables on Hinchcliffe at the next re-start. Despite having a competitive car, James' attempts to unlock its full potential were continually hampered by the number of laps turned under yellows and he eventually lost second place to his team-mate and eventual race winner, Brazil's Raphael Matos, at the third re-start on lap 14.
Further disruption followed with a seven-car crash resulting in six more caution laps and another re-start, Hinchcliffe once again coming under attack into the first turn, this time America's Jonathan Bomarito slipping by to drop James down to fourth with just three laps remaining. The front-end action remained fast and furious through to the checkered with Matos capturing his second-career win ahead of Wickens and Bomarito. Hinchcliffe opened his 2007 account with a solid fourth place finish, the series returnee happy with his points haul knowing how important consistency is in gunning for the title and the $2million prize fund on offer.
"The race was pretty frustrating to be honest," James reflected. "It felt like a club race in some respects as we just couldn't get enough laps run under green with all the accidents and cautions going on. At this level of racing I think the fans expect better and I don't think we put on a really good show for them today. It's a little disappointing and from my own perspective I think we had a car that was far better suited to longer runs which we just didn't get with events on-track."
He continued, "With the way the day was going, with lots of cars in the wall, we knew that to come away with a solid points haul would be a good result. I had such a strong car all weekend so I didn't want to do anything to jeopardize that and our ability to come away with a decent finish to get the season underway. A lot of guys are leaving here with nothing and a bunch of damaged cars, I'm leaving tied in third in the standings with Jonathan Bomarito so it's not a bad place to be. Obviously my congratulations go to the whole team and to Rafa (Matos) for taking the win, they did a great job."
Commenting on his pace straight out of the box James said, "I have to say I love this track here in Las Vegas, it's probably the best street circuit I've been too which is impressive considering this was the inaugural event. The guys on the team did a phenomenal job, my engineer gave me a car right off the back of the trailer that was fast enough for the top three in first practice before taking provisional pole later in Friday afternoon. Unfortunately with Saturday's incident I wasn't able to back it up but we knew we had a competitive package. No doubt we had one of the quickest race cars out there on Sunday it's just a shame we didn't get the green flag running to showcase what we could do."
Up Next -- Round 2, Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach, Friday 13th -- Sunday 15th April
With a frantic start to the 2007 Champ Car Atlantic Championship, with three consecutive race weekends on street circuits, the pack heads west from Las Vegas to the glamorous streets of Long Beach, California for Round 2, the 'Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach', this weekend 13th-15th April. Hinchcliffe made his Atlantic debut at the same event last season, impressing in the all-new 300bhp Swift Mazda-Cosworth on his way to a third place podium finish competing for Forsythe Racing.
Having qualified fifth on the 1.968-mile street circuit, James capped his maiden start with the final podium spot chasing home his Forsythe Racing team-mate and race winner, Germany's Andreas Wirth, and his 2007 Sierra Sierra team-mate, Brazil's Raphael Matos in second. 'Hinch' would later go on to spray the champagne from the top step of the podium in Round 4 of the 2006 Champ Car Atlantic Championship in Portland on his way to a tenth place finish, and top Canadian honours, in the final Driver Standings.
"I think our result and performance in Vegas gives the team a ton of confidence heading to Long Beach," said Hinchcliffe. "The Vegas race was new to everyone whereas Rafa and I have both competed at Long Beach in these cars so hopefully we'll be at a bit of an advantage over the rookies when we hit the track. I'm confident it should be a good weekend for us, I really enjoy the track at Long Beach and with the package we have here at Sierra Sierra I see no reason why we shouldn't be running at the front again. I'm looking forward to getting back out there in California and building on a good weekend in Vegas."