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Hinchcliffe takes maiden IndyCar win

James Hinchcliffe has been knocking on the door the past two years and scored an excellent first win in Sunday’s IndyCar season opener in St Petersburg. The 26-year old Canadian was IndyCar’s rookie of the year with Newman/Haas in 2011, the team’s last season. Hinchcliffe joined Andretti Autosport last year and finished eighth in points with third places at Long Beach and Milwaukee his best results. But he showed his stuff last year by qualifying on the front row at Indianapolis and Barber Motorsports Park, and was in great form in St. Petersburg last weekend.

indycar  Hinchcliffe takes maiden IndyCar win

Hinchcliffe qualified fourth and ran second or third through the first two-thirds of the race, battling with Penske pair Will Power and Helio Castroneves. Pole winner Power ran away on his own through the race’s opening segment but was beaten away from the first restart by team-mate Castroneves. A little later Power was hit by JR Hildebrand while running under a full-course yellow, resulting in a punctured tyre and some bodywork damage. After a pitstop and some repairs Power rejoined at the back of the field and was making some ground through the field only to slide wide and clip a tyre barrier.

Meanwhile, Hinchcliffe dogged Castroneves’s tracks and on the race’s final restart with 27 laps to go he was able to seize the led when the Brazilian braked too late and ran wide into the first turn. Running on Firestone’s harder compound tyres Hinchcliffe held off Castroneves, who was on the softer ‘red’ tyres, and then drove away through the closing laps to win comfortably.

“After that restart everybody else was on reds and we knew it was going to be tough,” Hinchcliffe said. “Everybody was asking me what was it going to take to become a winner and I said it’s about minimising mistakes – no mistakes in the pits, no mistakes on the track. And we capitalised from Helio making a mistake and put our head down and did it. I can’t believe it. It feels so good.”

indycar  Hinchcliffe takes maiden IndyCar win

In her first start with KV Racing and Chevrolet engines Simona de Silvestro qualified third and drove a fine race. The Swiss lady ran third for a good deal of the race but struggled with a lack of grip at the end. She ran wide in the last turn on the second last lap allowing Marco Andretti to take third and her KV teammate Tony Kanaan into fourth. On the run to the chequered flag a lap later de Silvestro lost fifth by a nose to Scott Dixon. Still, a fine performance from de Silvestro.

Defending champion Ryan Hunter-Reay qualified eighth and ran in the middle of the field before hitting trouble with a sticking throttle. Four-time champion Dario Franchitti had an even more difficult weekend, qualifying tenth, falling back in the race and then hitting the wall on his first lap out of the pits on cold tyres. Dario freely admitted he was trying too hard to make up for his car’s poor handling.

Frenchman Tristan Vautier made an impressive IndyCar debut in St. Petersburg. Vautier won the Star Mazda and Indy Lights championships on his way to Indycars and is paired this year with Simon Pagenaud in Sam Schmidt’s team. Vautier qualified sixth and ran as high as fourth in the race before dropping out because of a broken exhaust header.

A fine start to the season then for Hinchcliffe and Andretti Autosport. It will be a good thing for IndyCar if the outgoing, good-humoured Canadian can make himself a championship challenger.

indycar  Hinchcliffe takes maiden IndyCar win

Add your comments

14 comments on Hinchcliffe takes maiden IndyCar win

  1. James, 25 March 2013 10:57

    This was the highspot of a rather sour motorsport weekend for me.

    I’m not really a follower of Indycar, but Hinchcliffe has been on my radar for a few years now. Even when he struggled to get drives, he kept his profile, marketability and sponsors in the frame with a creative use of social media, very incisive,eloquent commentary and being a great ambassador for motorsport.

    He’s a great role model for other drivers who are struggling with their careers in a tough economic environment.

  2. dave cubbedge, 25 March 2013 12:17

    I agree with James, this race was the highlight of the weekend. Great result for Hinchcliffe and Simone de Silvestro didn’t lose any fans either! In addition to Tristan Vautier’s encouraging debut, I’d say Indycar is looking good for 2013.

  3. phil levett, 25 March 2013 13:10

    Time to get a competent company making exhausts so this doesn’t happen again.

  4. Ray T, 25 March 2013 14:23

    This was the race of the weekend, certainly better than watching the “competition” in F1.

    J. R. Hildebrand is turning into an internet meme of how to screw up on a major level. It’s getting tiresome watching his “mea culpa” post-crash interviews.

  5. Terry Jacob, 25 March 2013 14:52

    Are we sure about a lime green firesuit ??? Can’t imagine Parnelli or A.J . in one ………

  6. Alex Harmer, 25 March 2013 15:50

    Terry,

    I’m sure if James had the choice, he’d go for a more subtle shade…

    ACH

  7. Ray T, 25 March 2013 17:03

    It was either the lime green suit, or Danica’s old bikini…

  8. Rich Ambroson, 25 March 2013 21:05

    Though the cars are possibly uglier than the current lego “F1″ cars, this was as folks have noted, the racing highlight of the weekend.

    Looking forward to Simona getting her first podium (and more).

  9. dave cubbedge, 26 March 2013 00:43

    …agree Rich, the cars look like Hot Wheels!

    if it were up to me, the engine would be in front……just kidding.

    ….or was I?

  10. Terry Jacob, 26 March 2013 10:57

    Nothing wrong with the idea of front engines Dave . I kind of fancy the wild look of ISMA and Oswego Motor Speedway supermodifieds – though they are more ‘side-engined.’ Hey , how about a field of Smokey Yunick ‘sidecar ‘ style racers – now that was a concept to give anyone a smile !*!*! What do the Ray Ts think ……..

  11. dave cubbedge, 26 March 2013 11:12

    I actually wish they’d dump the Indy Lights deal and run USAC Silver Crown sprint cars for the Freedom 100 the Friday before the 500….

  12. Terry Jacob, 26 March 2013 11:22

    Wouldn’t be a bad first move Dave ….

  13. Rich Ambroson, 26 March 2013 15:28

    Silver Crown cars and Supermodifieds.

    Sounds good to me!

  14. A.S. Gilbert, 29 March 2013 04:16

    Congratulations, “Hinch” on breaking your Indy Car duck !
    Last year was measured and progressive, ramping up a graph, some real promise. Glad to see it realized, and hope for many more. Indy’s not far off….and when you’re hot…!
    Andretti Motor Sport and Go Daddy have both benefited having a quotable, perceptive, well integrated and talented pilot represent them.
    Kudos !

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