Hinchcliffe Scores Indy Lights Podium Debut Toronto, Canada (April 06, 2009) -- The opening double-header round of the 2009 Firestone Indy Lights Series, held on the streets of St. Petersburg, Florida at the weekend, 4th -- 5th April, saw ...
Hinchcliffe Scores Indy Lights Podium Debut
Toronto, Canada (April 06, 2009) -- The opening double-header round of the 2009 Firestone Indy Lights Series, held on the streets of St. Petersburg, Florida at the weekend, 4th -- 5th April, saw Canada's James Hinchcliffe grace the podium courtesy of a third place finish in Sunday's race meeting.
Combined with a solid sixth place finish from Saturday's first start, the 22-year-old Toronto rookie now sits third overall in the Driver Standings with 63 points heading to the next event in two weeks time on the famed streets of Long Beach, California.
Hinchcliffe was immediately amongst the front-runners from a packed 27-strong Indy Lights field when the new season finally kicked off. With qualifying split into two groups, chosen from a random draw, due to the sheer number of entrants chasing the pole time on the 1.8-mile street circuit, Hinchcliffe set the third and fourth fastest lap times in his two group outings.
This ultimately translated into a fifth place start for Saturday's 40-lap race and seventh on the grid for Sunday's outing with the weekend's poles going to America's J.R. Hildebrand and Colombia's Sebastian Saavedra respectively.
Saturday's race saw 'Hinch' combat a super slick race track, the Indy Lights race taking place in the aftermath of an American Le Mans Series event. Slippery conditions added to a front-end problem, discovered after the race by his Sam Schmidt Motorsports crew, made for challenging conditions but the Canadian steered his way home to a respectable sixth place finish at the checkered in the #7 HinchTown.Com Dallara-Firestone entry.
Sunday's 72-mile street sprint saw James behind the wheel of an improved race car but the tight confines of street racing didn't make things any easier for the Canadian. Successfully managing his tire-wear and biding his time, opportunities eventually presented themselves and soon Hinchcliffe rose through the front-order to take third and his maiden Indy Lights podium behind double race-winner and points leader, Holland's Junior Strous, and second-placed Saavedra.
"We might not have had the quickest car today but we successfully steered clear of everyone else's incidents," remarked Hinchcliffe after his first podium appearance on Sunday. "The whole team, not least my engineer and mechanics, put in a huge amount of work between races to improve the car so the podium was a just reward for all their efforts. We were fast at the end there so hopefully we'll show up at Long Beach with a quick car straight off the back of the trailer. To the high standards set by Sam Schmidt Motorsports and myself, we had a below average weekend but to come away third in the points -- we'll take it and move on!"