Hinchcliffe Seventh in Static Long Beach Street Race Toronto, Canada (April 15, 2007) -- James Hinchcliffe raced his way to a second straight top-ten finish in the ...
Hinchcliffe Seventh in Static Long Beach Street Race
Toronto, Canada (April 15, 2007) -- James Hinchcliffe raced his way to a second straight top-ten finish in the #9 NOCO/ProWorks Sierra Sierra Enterprises entry as Round 2 of the 2007 Cooper Tires Presents The Champ Car Atlantic Championship Powered by Mazda played out in Long Beach, California.
Disappointed to qualify tenth on the 30-car grid for Sunday's race around the 1.968-mile temporary street course, Hinchcliffe climbed to seventh at the checkered to add 17 valuable championship points to his tally from Round 1 in Las Vegas last weekend where he scored a fourth place finish, and 23 points, and an additional score for securing provisional pole after Friday qualifying.
'Hinch', who made a noteworthy Champ Car Atlantic Championship debut in Long Beach last season thanks to a third place podium finish, kicked off this year's event in California setting the fifth fastest time in free practice on Friday morning. With consistency proving to be the watch word of the day, the 20-year-old sophomore racer mirrored his earlier performance with a fifth place effort in the afternoon's first qualifying session, James' best a 1m17.238s (91.727mph) -- provisional pole going to Hinchcliffe's Brazilian team-mate and Round 1 race winner, Raphael Matos.
While Matos sealed the deal on pole following Saturday's second qualifying session, 1m15.725s (93.561mph), James was left frustrated with a tenth place grid slot, the Canadian steering his way round Long Beach's concrete canyons in 1m16.635s (92.449mph) for a spot on row-five for the standing start on Sunday morning.
A clean getaway allowed Hinchcliffe to gain two spots as the lights flicked from red to green signaling the start of the 50-minute street sprint. An early caution period quickly bunched the field back up but at the restart on lap four, James seized his opportunity to pick off another position, the #9 car moving up to seventh before a second full course caution gate-crashed proceedings a lap later.
When racing resumed on lap eight James gave chase to Conquest Racing's Giacomo Ricci, the 22-year-old Italian holding a narrow advantage over his North American rival. The tight confines of the Long Beach layout made overtaking virtually impossible as track position remained predominantly static throughout the running order, the pack enjoying some lengthy green flag running after a third caution period on lap 14. While he had the pace to keep former Champ Car racer Ronnie Bremer behind him, 'Hinch' couldn't dislodge Ricci from sixth, the Canadian frustratingly held in seventh through to the checkered on lap 31 but happy to take home a solid points score.
Raphael Matos went two for two to start the fledgling 12-round season, the Brazilian leading home America's Jonathan Bomarito and Canada's Robert Wickens at the flag -- the same top-three podium finishers from last weekend's season opener, Bomarito and Wickens swapping spots in California.
"It was a bit of a frustrating weekend," said Hinchcliffe post-race. "We started off on Friday with a little bit of a brake problem which had originated in the race in Vegas last week. That held us back a bit at the beginning and with the series being as competitive as it is it put us a little behind in the first session. We got things sorted this morning before the race but we were playing catch up."
He continued, "I got a pretty good start, gained a couple of places, made up another spot later but that was me in seventh for the rest of the race. It was all fairly processional but I'm happy to have come away with a good points haul because this was always going to be one of the harder weekends for us. That said if seventh is classed as a tough weekend then it's not all that bad I guess!"
Up Next -- Round 3, Houston -- Reliant Park, Texas, Friday 20th -- Sunday 22nd April
With no let up in the schedule, Round 3 of the 2007 Champ Car Atlantic Championship heads to Houston, Texas next weekend, Friday 20th -- Sunday 22nd April, for the third consecutive street race to open the season. The 1.69-mile JAGflo Speedway at Reliant Park first hosted an Atlantic race last year with James qualifying fifth overall before going on to score a fourth place finish in his second career start.
Looking ahead to the Texas race James commented, "I'm looking forward to going to Houston. I ran really well there last season finishing fourth, it should probably have been a podium but it wasn't to be. It's an interesting track and I hear they've made a few changes which will hopefully make it even better than it was last year. I'm really looking forward to getting back in the car, I'm a big fan of these back-to-back races!"