USA: James Hinchcliffe claims Rookie of the Year

James Hinchcliffe has Outstanding Rookie Season TORONTO, ON. (September 16, 2004) 17-year-old James Hinchcliffe (Franczak Enterprises / AIM Autosport / ...

James Hinchcliffe has Outstanding Rookie Season

TORONTO, ON. (September 16, 2004) 17-year-old James Hinchcliffe (Franczak Enterprises / AIM Autosport / #56) scored a third place result is Saturday's Formula BMW event to claim the BMW Rookie Cup and the honor of 'Rookie of the Year' in Formula BMW USA competition. With the final round being held at the 11 corner 2.238 mile Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in Monterrey, CA, Hinchcliffe had a slim opportunity take both the Rookie Cup award and the overall series championship.

Hinchcliffe proved to be very fast in Friday's test sessions ending the morning in the top five in times. With qualifying for Saturday's event on Friday afternoon, it was down to business early. Hinchcliffe was looking to put his AIM Autosport BMW on the pole as he held the point for most of the session. Many drivers took a shot at the talented Canadian but were unable to match his speed until the final circuit when two of his closest rivals slipped by and relegated James to P3.

Looking to improve his starting position for Sunday's event, Hinchcliffe and the rest of the BMW competitors hit the track early Saturday morning. Taking information learned from Friday's sessions, Hinchcliffe improved his time and would start the final event from the outside of the front row.

"I would have liked to been on the front row for both events" explained the Oakville, ON resident. "We had a great car and I was held up on my final lap of the first qualifying session. I think we could have gone faster. My main goal is the Rookie Cup and then the championship so I will have to be cautiously aggressive in the race."

As the green flag flew for the start of the next to last round in 2004's BMW competition, Hinchcliffe got a good jump as the field filed into the tricky turn one. Being able to maintain his starting position, Hinchcliffe circuited the course for several laps before he and a fellow competitor swapped 2nd and 3rd positions several times. As the epic battle wore on, Hinchcliffe was once again focused on the prize but had to settle for third, thus claiming the Rookie of the Year title and the BMW Rookie Cup.

Sunday morning provided Hinchcliffe with a different car setup than Saturday's race. In a phone interview from the track, Hinchcliffe explained that he was not happy with his car in the first round of the weekend and to gain time on the pole sitter they would have to hit the setup perfectly. In the morning warm up the AIM Autosport squad seemed to have done just that as he was the quickest driver on the circuit. Pushing the car to the limits each lap, Hinchcliffe had a devastating accident the completely destroyed the front wing, rear wing and the right side of the race car.

"The car was bad after the crash. It was so devastating to have that happen on the last day of the last race of the season, but hey, that's racing!" With the sustained damage the team went to work not knowing if they were going to be able to get the car completed in time. With the car nearly complete Hinchcliffed suited up as the final piece of bodywork was replaced ten minutes before the final call to the starting grid. "The team worked so incredibly hard to get everything together on the car. I owe so much to them for this entire year and they did a fantastic job of getting the car back together so we could make the race after my mistake in the morning. I would like to thank everyone in Formula BMW who offered assistance and parts to the team and myself after the accident. It was so nice to see the softer side of the sport." Determined to give it a shot the newly crowed Rookie of the Year climbed in the car and started the event.

With the heavy hit, the setup on Hinchcliffe's car was off as he ran around in the third position. Showing his sportsmanship, Hinchcliffe let the competitors who were quicker than him by to ensure that he would not impede in their battle. Just trying to bring the car home in one piece, Hinchcliffe crossed the line in the 11th position. Though this was not the ending to a successful season that Hinchcliffe had hoped, the talented Canadian turned a lot of heads as he looks to move up the motorsports ladder.

At the beginning of the season Hinchcliffe was awarded Formula BMW Scholarship award and a shot to compete in North American competition. James joined the AIM Autosport squad and was considered as one of the most consistent drivers on the circuit finishing inside the top five at twelve of fourteen events. In his rookie season Hinchcliffe claimed three victories and 4 pole positions on the way to being named the Rookie of the Year and obtaining the BMW Rookie Cup. James would like to thank all the people that made this season possible including Franczak Enterprises, AIM Autosport and his parents, sister and brother.

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About this article
Series Formula BMW
Drivers James Hinchcliffe