Q&A: James Hinchcliffe, the local race car driver with a real shot at winning this weekend’s Honda Indy
By Ron Johnson
Canada has had a long line of stellar race car drivers, including local sensation Paul Tracy as well as Gilles Villeneuve and B.C. native Greg Moore, whose career was tragically cut short after dying in a violent crash during a race in 1999. With the return of the Honda Indy Toronto to the city streets this weekend, all eyes are on one of the most charismatic drivers today — Oakville native James “Hinch” Hinchcliffe.
We chatted with Hinchcliffe, who’s currently fifth in the IndyCar Series Championship and is looking for his first win this weekend.
Coming from the GTA, how important is the Toronto Indy’s continuation and growth?
It is super-important to me. I mean, I’m a racing fan, and I was [a fan] long before I was driving. For me, Christmas was in July; my favourite day was going to the Indy in Toronto. In 2008, it was really hard, but I’m glad it came back, and it is great to see the effort being put into it to make it bigger and better — just like it was back in the ’90s.
OK sure, but you know what would really help? You winning. Could you?
Oh god, that’d be nice. I’m sure as hell going to try.
You replaced Danica Patrick on the Godaddy.com team this season, possibly the most popular driver in Indy. How did you deal with that?
It is a big act to follow, a tough act. Obviously, she’s the most iconic and popular driver in our sport, and to step into her ride with that extra attention, there has been pressure, but we’ve had a lot of fun embracing that. Rather than being shy coming in behind a prolific driver, we’ve been having a lot of fun trying to reach the Danica fans, trying to convert them to Hinch fans.
When did you first realize that driving cars fast was something you were good at?
Well, I’m still trying to establish if I’m any good at it. But I have established that racing is a passion of mine, and I have a bit of a knack for it, and I knew that well before I was legally allowed to drive on the road. I began my career racing go-carts when I was nine years old in Uxbridge.
Who were you looking up to for inspiration back then?
The big one for me was Greg Moore. I was a big Moore fan. When he died, it was a big wake-up call for me as a young racer. Obviously, I decided to stick with it, but he was my guy growing up.
Speaking of that, just how do you guys deal with the whole could-die-at-any- moment thing?
Getting into it, you acknowledge the risk factor, but the passion we have for the sport is so deep it trumps any fear or reservation. Some people call us crazy, but I’ll gladly be called crazy to get to be Indy car driving for a living.
Honda Indy Toronto runs from July 6 - 8