After suffering mechanical issues two weeks ago in the season opener at St. Petersburg, James Hinchcliffe looks to have things on track for a good run this weekend as he qualified second for the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach. Hinchcliffe put his No. 27 United Fiber and Data Honda on the front row beside teammate Ryan Hunter-Reay in Saturday’s qualifying session.
“It was great to have Andretti Autosport lock out the front row,” The United Fiber and Data car has been quick all through practice, and it was really just a function of trying to put it all together. You never know quite what you’re going to get when you strap on those Firestone Reds for the first time. Luckily we were in the ballpark.
“Didn’t quite get the best out of the set on Q2, and we just kind of sneaked in there. But in Q3, I haven’t done a ton of these Fast Sixes, so still learning the tricks of running a set of Reds for a second stint, but we’re obviously quick there.”
Track position is key when it comes to the street circuits so certainly it’s a positive to be second. Though perhaps the other positive is Hinchcliffe will be near the front when the field takes on their first standing start of the season.
“It’s going to be more difficult here than anywhere else,” Hinchcliffe commented. “A, we’ve been or B, that we will go, because it is a curved front straightaway, and it’s also a cambered front straightaway, so as soon as you get wheel spin, the cars are going to start grabbing and it will be difficult. It will be interesting to see how it all shakes out to be honest.”
If Hinchcliffe gets off to a good start, then he says the biggest thing will be about staying ahead of the track and keeping up with your adjustments.
“It’s one thing to be quick in the first practice, but the track evolves, you need to evolve the setup and kind of stay one step ahead of it, and that’s something we haven’t been awesome at in years past,” Hinchcliffe noted.
Coming off of a poor showing two weeks ago, Long Beach is perhaps one of the best tracks that Hinchcliffe can go to as he finished third in 2011, followed by a fourth in 2012. Hinchcliffe was quick last year, though had weekends where he either shined real bright, or stunk up and finished poorly. Consistency was one of the biggest things that lacked last year and took him out of the championship hunt early.
If Hinchcliffe wants to be a championship contender this year, turning the start to his year around will be a pivotal step moving forward.