Hinchcliffe Takes Tremblant Top-Five Mont-Tremblant, Quebec (June 29, 2008) -- James Hinchcliffe was denied a repeat podium at Circuit Mont-Tremblant on Sunday but the Toronto racer kept himself firmly in the title fight courtesy of a ...
Hinchcliffe Takes Tremblant Top-Five
Mont-Tremblant, Quebec (June 29, 2008) -- James Hinchcliffe was denied a repeat podium at Circuit Mont-Tremblant on Sunday but the Toronto racer kept himself firmly in the title fight courtesy of a fourth place finish, his third straight top-ten of the season, and top Canadian driver honours in Round 3 of the 2008 Cooper Tires Presents The Atlantic Championship Powered by Mazda.
Returning to the 2.65-mile Circuit Mont-Tremblant, located 90-minutes north of Montreal, Hinchcliffe hoped to build on his third place effort from last season's debut event at the picturesque Quebec circuit as well as from his second round victory last month at California's Laguna Seca. Leading the points chase heading into the weekend James again showed his form in Friday's first practice, holding fastest lap for the majority of the session in the Forsythe Pettit Racing #3 INDECK/TireRack.com entry before Condor Motorsport's Junior Strous trumped the 21-year-old in the closing stages.
Strous would again prove to be the man to beat in qualifying as Saturday's two sessions presented opposing track conditions. A mainly dry first session saw Hinchcliffe post the fourth fastest lap time, a 1m29.389s, with Strous capturing provisional pole with a 1m28.805s. It would ultimately seal the Dutchman's first career Atlantic pole as the afternoon session brought rain and slower lap times with Quebec favorite, Kevin Lacroix, topping the second outing to guarantee himself a front-row start.
Hinchcliffe wound up fifth on the grid for Sunday afternoon's 50-minute race and he wasted little time capitalizing on a sluggish start from Lacroix in second to move up into fourth as his fellow Canadian dropped down the order. While James initially gave chase to third-placed Carl Skerlong he would later find another American driver to battle with as Jonathan Summerton lurked behind in fifth quickly becoming an ever-present threat in the Canadian's mirrors.
A couple of late full-course caution periods bunched the field back-up but Hinchcliffe's experience showed at the re-starts as he valiantly defended a well deserved fourth place. James survived a late-scare as Summerton connected on the final re-start but he held on to take the checkered fourth scoring 23 valuable points. Strous' lights-to-flag victory earns him the current championship lead, with Hinchcliffe seven points in arrears in second (74-67). Finland's Markus Niemela and Carl Skerlong rounded out a truly international Mont-Tremblant podium.
"It was a fairly straightforward race," declared James. "We lost a bit of the balance of the car and the brakes were possibly over-heating a bit so we lost some ground on the top-three and there was a train of cars coming up behind me. Jonathan (Summerton) sat on my tail for about three-quarters of that race and I don't know the last time I had to work so hard to keep a position. I didn't have the quickest car today but the Forsythe Pettit crew did a great job, we're always in the mix and fourth gives us a good points haul so I can't complain about that.
"We're now heading to some tracks I know pretty well. I was on pole in Edmonton last season so I think we're looking good but we've got to keep our momentum going. We're only three races into the championship and there's a whole load of racing still to come but there's no doubt this is going to be a balls out title fight thanks to the opposition!"
The 2008 Cooper Tires Presents The Atlantic Championship Powered by Mazda remains in Canada with the 'Rexall Edmonton Indy' hosting a double-header in Alberta with Rounds 4 and 5 playing out on the 1.973-mile City Centre Airport track, Thursday 24th -- Saturday 26th July 2008 -- www.edmontonindy.com