Toronto, Canada (May 29, 2009) -- Canada's James Hinchcliffe took time out before competing in this weekend's sixth round of the 2009 Firestone Indy Lights Series, at the Milwaukee Mile, to review last week's events at Indianapolis and his rookie...
Toronto, Canada (May 29, 2009) -- Canada's James Hinchcliffe took time out before competing in this weekend's sixth round of the 2009 Firestone Indy Lights Series, at the Milwaukee Mile, to review last week's events at Indianapolis and his rookie season to-date racing the #7 HinchTown.com entry for Sam Schmidt Motorsports.
Q: As a rookie Indy Lights competitor, how was your first experience of 'The Month of May'?
James Hinchcliffe (JH): "Not only was this May my first as a competitor, but also just being in Indianapolis for the month, and that was an experience in itself! Being here for all of May was really cool and I saw how much this race means to this town and it was quite an educational experience. I feel like I understand and appreciate this event more than I ever did before. As a competitor, it was really cool to add my name to the list of drivers that have raced the oval at Indy."
Q: Is it daunting to be at a place as historic as Indy in only your second oval start in Indy Lights?
JH: "When we rocked up to Indy for the open test, it was the first time I had driven on something other than a 1.5 mile, high banked track, and I was blown away at how different and unique this place is. I enjoyed it from lap one as I got used to how different the car feels here than anywhere else. It is a bit of a daunting place, but Sam Schmidt Motorsports gave me such a good car that I was comfortable quickly and that really helps."
Q: Obviously you had some issues in qualifying and then the race, give us the lowdown?
JH: "From a racing purist point of view, it was a cool to weekend to be at Indy supporting the 500. From a competitors point of view it was a disaster. I actually had a spin in Turn 1 in practice and kept it off all the walls. It was an interesting experience to say the least and I was glad someone upstairs was looking out for me, because you don't often spin at Indy and get away with it.
"Then in qualifying we had an issue that meant the engine wasn't running properly, so we didn't qualify particularly well. It was ok though because I knew my racecar was really quick and I would be up with the leaders pretty quickly. Tragically, we had some sort of failure on lap one and I started losing power in the engine. It got worse and worse to the point where I was flagged to come in. It was devastating because I hate not finishing races and the fact that it happened on our biggest weekend was just adding insult to injury. But I'm over it and thankfully, Milwaukee is already upon us, so my head is already in the Cheese State!"
Q: You're still in the mix as far as the title fight is concerned, other than the blip at Indy, is your season going to plan?
JH: "Honestly, no. The plan was to win the first five races and cruise from there! Obviously, in a series this competitive that was never going to happen, but it would have been nice! Seriously though, we were really hoping to have had a few more good results.
"Two podiums isn't bad, but we have had more little issues that have robbed us of good finishes, and I think that is what hurts the most. The speed is there, we just haven't had luck on our side. So hopefully our bad luck is done for the year, and we are still in it so now we can get back to the plan."
Q: This weekend's race venue, the Milwaukee Mile, couldn't be more different from the Indianapolis Motor Speedway -- what's your strategy for this one?
JH: "Yeah, I mean Milwaukee couldn't be any more different from Indy unless it had a right turn! So it is sort of one extreme to another. But that's fine with me. I have tested at Milwaukee and really enjoyed it. It is a different kind of challenge and certainly demands a lot of respect. But neither end is flat in a lights car, so it sort of drives more like a road course, which is why a lot of guys from a road race background like it and do well there.
"Our strategy is just to put Indy behind us and have a strong result. It is probably one of the harder races to predict and it is really hard on car and driver, so it will be about keeping clean for the first 90 laps and being there to fight in the last 10."
Q: Your home event in Toronto is looming large on the horizon, just a matter of weeks away -- what does it mean to you to be able to race there?
JH: "Toronto is obviously huge for me. I have raced there before and just love it. The track, the fans, the event, it is all top class. To race in my home country in itself is such a high, and then in my hometown is just fantastic. It sucks that it is not quite close enough to my house to stay at home.
"It was nice during Indy to stay at my place there and not have to be in a hotel! I think everyone from the League that has been there before are excited to go back, and the guys who haven't are in for a real treat. Hopefully we can put on a good show!"
Q: It's never too early to look to the future -- having been exposed more to the IndyCar Series this season, how would you put your chances at being able to graduate up to the top-flight?
JH: "Well, for sure IndyCar is the goal. I have been happy with my pace in Indy Lights and hopefully the team owners are seeing what we have to offer. I know that I have raced against guys like Graham (Rahal), Marco (Andretti) and Rafa (Matos), and they are all competitive, so why not me? I just need to get some results and do the talking on track and then we can start talking off it to see what the possibilities are for moving up. I'll do whatever it takes to be an IndyCar driver."
Q: On a lighter, off-track note, you're well known as the Mayor of HinchTown, if you could make one statement to your fellow politicians, what would you say?
JH: "Relax! (laughs) I am quite lucky to have such good residents in HinchTown so my job is considerably easier than theirs. My people don't make me worry about things like the economy and budgets and foreign policy. So the only statement I would make to them would be to be honest with their people, like I am in HinchTown. But if they did that, they wouldn't really be politicians anymore, would they?"