1 July 2009
Q&A: James Hinchcliffe (Indy Lights)
James Hinchcliffe heads back into Firestone Indy Lights Series action at the famed Watkins Glen International road course this weekend, as round eight starts a run of three straight road or street courses through the month of July.
'Hinch', who races the #7 HinchTown.com Dallara for Sam Schmidt Motorsports, capped the recent spate of oval races with his first podium finish in the discipline, claiming third at the Iowa Speedway a couple of weeks back, but is looking forward to returning to some of the classic North American road and street circuits.
You picked up your first oval-race podium last time out in Iowa, how does it feel to get a top-three in that discipline under your rookie-belt?
Well, I have to say, with ovals this year, there has been a lot of new experiences stuffed under my rookie belt. Obviously, this was one of the nicer ones! It was great to do it because I had set that goal firmly before the weekend that a podium was what we needed to achieve and we did it. For sure, there is always room for improvement, but this shows progression and we were realistically within sight of the win, so that's a good feeling.
Flat out, turn left – surely that's all there is to oval racing though?
Flat out, turn left and don't hit the wall! I have to laugh because that is the perception that so many people have about oval racing. Twelve months ago, I was one of those people. Okay, I never thought it was easy and anyone could do it, but I certainly underestimated the subtle nuances of the craft. On top of that, the racing is great fun! I was sceptical that I would enjoy it at first, but Iowa was my favourite race of the year! It was non-stop action and just a ton of fun. That's why they say 'don't knock it 'til you try it!'.
Are you bummed that now, after a strong result and some momentum turning circles, you're back to a string of street and road courses?
Of course it is bittersweet. My oval results have been getting better and I still learn so much every time we rock up to an oval, and I love learning in my racecar. So, from that perspective, it would be nice to keep the momentum going. Having said that, my background is road racing and we are coming up to some really cool tracks, so I'm stoked about that. And it's not like our street/road course performances this year have sucked! Hopefully we can just get that little bit more!
Other than being located in the middle of nowhere with no cellphone reception, what can you tell us about competing at Watkins Glen?
Ha, not much! Along with St Pete, this is the only road/street course I haven't raced on yet but, from what I have heard from other drivers, it is a really cool track and I'm really excited about running here. It is fast and flowing and that tends to suit my style better then point-and-squirt tracks. We don't get a lot of track time before qualifying though, so getting the most out of practice and getting up to speed quick will be of paramount importance.
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