Despite being a proud Canadian, James Hinchcliffe was still hoping for some Independence Day fireworks in Saturday's Firestone Indy Lights race at Watkins Glen International. Sadly, the event proved to be something of a damp squib as he made an uncharacteristic early exit.
A promising start from third on the grid, despite battling a suddenly loose #7 HinchTown.com
-backed Sam Schmidt Motorsports entry, looked set to pave the way for a bid on the lead, but the 22-year old rookie's race ended abruptly just seven laps into proceedings when he was pitched into the wall at turn six as the result of a sudden brake bias issue.
“It was just a bizarre way to exit the race,” claimed a still perplexed 'Hinch' upon his return to his native Toronto, “Normally when you spin out of a race like that, you know that either something broke on the car or you messed up, but that wasn't the case this time round and I was a little bemused sitting in the car post-incident.
"We ended up looking over all the data and it turned out that, for some reason, the brake bias had switched from the front to the rear of the car as I braked into the turn, meaning I locked up the rear wheels. That's what pitched me suddenly into the spin and, ultimately, out of the race.”
Points leader JR Hildebrand went on to claim a second win of the season, and now has a healthy 58-point lead over second-placed Mario Romancini after coming home ahead of polesitter James Davison and debutant Felipe Guimaraes. With Romancini and Wade Cunningham both joining him on the sidelines, however, Hinchcliffe knew that an opportunity to advance his own claims to the title had gone begging.
“It's pretty frustrating, simply from the point of view that other than JR scoring well, the rest of the guys around me in the standings didn't fare too well, so it would have been an opportune time to collect some decent points," he sighed.
"I was fighting a pretty loose car out there, but had it under control - I'd actually just set the fastest lap of the race before exiting dramatically. The good news is that I don't have long to dwell on Watkins Glen as we're back racing again this weekend and, better than that, we're back home in Toronto!”
Round nine of the Firestone Indy Lights Series is the first to run outside the confines of the USA, as the championship breaks new ground - in its current guise at least - to join the IndyCar Series on the streets of Hinchcliffe's home town.