Hinchcliffe Takes Second in Rain-Soaked Portland Opener Portland, Oregon (June 09, 2007) -- Toronto's James Hinchcliffe led the first 23-laps of Round 4 of the 2007 Cooper Tires Presents The Champ Car Atlantic Championship Powered By Mazda,...
Hinchcliffe Takes Second in Rain-Soaked Portland Opener
Portland, Oregon (June 09, 2007) -- Toronto's James Hinchcliffe led the first 23-laps of Round 4 of the 2007 Cooper Tires Presents The Champ Car Atlantic Championship Powered By Mazda, held Saturday at the Portland International Raceway, Oregon but had to settle for second when the checkered flag fell on lap 30 in the first rain-affected race of the 12-round series.
Hinchcliffe's second-straight podium finish, following a third place effort last time out in Round 3 in Houston, solidified his third place hold in the Driver Standings while the day's race winner, fellow Canadian racer Robert Wickens, moved up to second behind series leader and James' Sierra Sierra Enterprises team-mate Brazil's Raphael Matos.
The opening round of a Portland double-header saw Hinchcliffe capture his first pole position of the season the day before in the #9 NOCO/ProWorks entry. Lapping the sweeping 1.964-mile permanent road course in 1m06.561s (106.224mph), the 20-year-old topped the 28-car field to claim his first Champ Car Atlantic Championship pole since last season's penultimate round in Montreal. In doing so 'Hinch' delivered Sierra Sierra's second consecutive front-row shut out.
With the North-West heavens opening prior to the start of Saturday's 45-minute race, a wet race was declared and a front-row view of the track proved to be a definite advantage on the charge to Turn 1's Festival Curves. Despite losing the sprint off the line to Matos it was Hinchcliffe who emerged in the lead as the pack gingerly battled its way through the opening corners. A variety of incidents and accidents brought an early safety car period but James coolly controlled the re-start on lap five and made the most of a spray-free view ahead.
As the rain eased, James then held a four second advantage over Wickens in the #3 Red Bull/Indeck entry. Hinchcliffe, the defending Atlantic race champion at Portland, maintained the lead while soaking up pressure from his rookie rival. While the gap lowered to 1.5 seconds on lap 17, James responded on the next tour gaining half a second but his countryman made good his attack just six laps later into Turn 1. Making the most of aggressive braking and lapped traffic on lap 24 Wickens took the lead from Hinchcliffe and the revised order remained unchanged through to the checkered with Great Britain's Ryan Lewis completing the podium in third for Walker Racing.
"Well our first wet laps here were under race conditions which wasn't ideal," Hinchcliffe remarked. "I didn't get the best start but managed to get the lead back before the safety car. We had a pretty good car, we were consistent but Wickens managed to work his way up to me and eventually get me at the first turn. Set-up was a bit of a crap-shoot given the conditions so to come out with second isn't bad. We've got pole for tomorrow's race and it's meant to rain again so we'll see what happens then."
Hinchcliffe holds pole for Sunday's fifth round leading fellow Canadian, Kevin Lacroix on the front row for the second 45-minute outing of the weekend. Round 5 starts Sunday, 10th June, at 11am PST.