6 May 2013
IndyCar Sao Paulo 2013: Hinch wins Brazilian thriller
When the track went green, Takuma Sato successfully protected the lead and Josef Newgarden went with him, blasting past Hinchcliffe for second place and forcing the Japanese driver to resort to using the push-to-pass boost to maintain his lead. It was one heck of a recovery for the Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing driver, who had started from the back after an engine change on Saturday cost him a chance of participating in qualifying.
The battlelines were now drawn, and with no further yellow flags materialising for the remainder of the race the fans were treated to one of the best battles for a race win that the series has seen on a road/street course in recent times. Newgarden threw everything he had at the AJ Foyt Racing car and time and again seemed to come within inches of snatching the lead, only for Sato to hold him off on each occasion - at times coming within a whisker of being guilty of blocking.
As the two battled for lap after lap, Hinchcliffe was also also closing up on the pair from the rear. As they went through turn 11 for the penultimate time, the trio went three-wide and it was Newgarden who ended up losing out, demoted to the role of bystander as Hinchcliffe took the battle to Sato for the final 2.536 miles of the Sao Paulo race. He had the advantage of one remaining push-to-pass, but Sato was using every ounce of his skills to ward him off. Finally the cars approached turn 11 again for the last time - and Sato slightly outbraked himself, slithering into the corner and struggling to control the #14 into the right hander while Hinchcliffe was able to jump at the opportunity this presented. He got the cleaner, tighter line through the corner and emerged onto the main straight in front in the lunge for the chequered flag.
"There's no cooler way to win a race [than] in the last corner of the last lap!" laughed Hinchcliffe. "Takuma was making that race car really wide and he was defending the inside pretty well, almost too well a couple times. He just outbroke himself just a little bit and I was able to do a high-low and got the win."
Hinchcliffe had led the race for only 300 yards during the entire afternoon, but in doing so had claimed his second win of 2013 in the process, the second win of his IZOD IndyCar Series career. It also means that Andretti Autosport has won three of the first four races of 2013, with Hinchcliffe taking two to Hunter-Reay's one. Team owner was enjoying the run of good results regardless of which of his stable of drivers brought home the winner's trophy, of course.
"It's awesome to have two cars on the podium ... all-in-all it really was a great weekend for the whole Andretti Autosport group," he said, having thoroughly enjoyed the thrilling climactic battle in the final 17 laps. "That's IndyCar racing. That's what it's about. It seems that so many of these races go down the last turn of the last lap. That's what makes this such a great sport."
Hinchcliffe's win denied Sato achieving back-to-back wins, although the former F1 driver will at least take the consolation prize of leading the championship standings heading into the Indianapolis 500.
"Hinch did a great job," said Sato, the AJ Foyt Racing driver adding that he was still ecstatic at clinching second place for the team this weekend. "Today we started from 12th so it was a really solid day for us. It was a great, great race, and we're carrying good momentum into Indianapolis."
Further back from this truly epic finish, Newgarden's broken momentum cost him the final podium position in the final moments as he fell to fifth place by the finish. He was passed in short order by the still-battling Marco Andretti and Oriol Servià, both of whom performing impressively in Brazil - made all the more bitter-sweet in Servià's case coming hard on the heels of confirmation that Panther DRR is to shut up shop after the Indy 500 and leave the Spaniard out of work.
"It was a lot of fun - it was dicey at some points," said Marco. "Really it was just about conserving the push-to-passes for when it counts. At the end I was kind of using it when people weren't expecting me to use it so I could kind of snooker them."
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