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“Hinchcliffe inspects Belle Isle Raceway”


April 23, 2013 at 1:00 am

IndyCar’s Hinchcliffe inspects Belle Isle

Raceway ahead of June race

  • By David Goricki
  • The Detroit News

Detroit — IndyCar driver James Hinchcliffe was back on Belle Isle Raceway Tuesday morning for the first time since crashing into the tire barrier after the track broke up in the race last June on Turn 6.

And Hinchcliffe was pleased to see the track improvements, which included a $1 million project to repave more than 80,000 square feet of concrete and asphalt.

“It was impossible to predict that would be an issue,” recalled Hinchcliffe who had some fun at the track, wearing a hard hat and driving a fork-lift near Turn 6. “They ran a three-hour Grand-Am race that Saturday with no problems and there was no reason to think it was going to be a problem.

“Now, obviously with the areas that were affected; they’ve gone through and used a proven material here, and they’ve cleaned the place up. They even have a different layout, and I think it’s going to make much better racing.”

Hinchcliffe was the first driver to experience the track breaking up.

“We started realizing it about lap 5,” recalled Hinchcliffe. “Some of the tar started to rip up (in Turn 6). Then, the track started to break up in Turn 9 and kept getting worse and worse here. There was a massive chunk of rubber basically sitting just off the racing line, and we were just allowed to keep racing, and ultimately what happened was where that had broken off is right where we were driving over.

“I was following Graham Rahal and just the downforce a car produces kind of sucks up on the road basically and a little piece of concrete came up as he went over it and launched it right under my car and that was it — game over. It was the concrete that basically lifted my front wheels off the ground. I was driving straight and went straight into the wall here. Thank God there were tires (barrier) there because it would have been a big hit.”

Hinchcliffe is looking forward to returning for the first doubleheader in IndyCar history — consecutive races June 1-2 — with the new long straightaway added to the course.

“It’s almost a half-mile straightaway,” noted Hinchcliffe of the new layout. “For us, this is the most difficult tracks to pass on. There weren’t a lot of opportunities to do it. Now, with this straightaway down into Turn 3, it’s going to be really exciting because 1 and 2 are very quick corners, and we’re going to be coming on to that straightaway with a good bit of speed to begin with … and then we have a lot of time to wind it up and then got to get on the binders for Turn 3. It’s going to make some really exciting racing.”

Hinchcliffe, now in his third season, won the first race of his career in the season opener at St. Petersburg, Fla.

“It’s great to get that first win out of the way,” said Hinchcliffe who is in his second year driving for Michael Andretti. “I think a lot of people will tell you the first one is the hardest one and hopefully it leads to many more. Once you know you can do it, the confidence is there and the confidence in the team, the driver and the whole package is there. For us to get it out of the way in the first race of the season is huge, and it was GoDaddy’s first win in IndyCar as well, which is very exciting.”

Hinchcliffe is sitting 10th in points after consecutive crashes at Alabama and Long Beach. His teammate, Ryan Hunter-Reay, is the defending series champion.

From The Detroit News: