Indy Racing League Media Conference
Topics: Indy Racing League
March 7, 2012
THE MODERATOR: Welcome to today's IZOD IndyCar Series conference call. Our guest today is James Hinchcliffe. James, welcome to today's call.
JAMES HINCHCLIFFE: Thank you very much for having me on.
THE MODERATOR: I know you're calling us from a pretty busy day up in St. Petersburg, Florida, the IZOD IndyCar Series video day. Talk a little bit about the experience you've gone through today.
JAMES HINCHCLIFFE: Yeah, it's probably the busiest day of the year for us. We have all sorts of events to get through from sort of 9 a.m. till 5 p.m. Different networks that need to shoot different video pieces, different photo sessions for different organizations for different purposes. As you can imagine, when you're trying to orchestrate 30 drivers on some sort of a time schedule, things get thrown viciously off course. It becomes a bit of an improv.
We've managed to get everything done we've had to get done up to this point.
THE MODERATOR: Obviously you had two days in the car at Sebring International Raceway. Was that beneficial to the Go Daddy.com team?
JAMES HINCHCLIFFE: Anytime in the car is beneficial. To have those two days in the car at Sebring is a big step. First time we've had all three cars running together at the same test. We got a lot of work done. Learned a lot of what not to do. But that's part of the learning process with the new car.
We had all three cars on sort of different programs, trying out different aspects of things we needed to get through on our checklist. Obviously Ryan was very competitive on both days. Marco and I sort of completed our programs and came to some useful conclusions to the team moving forward. Now we're anxious to put all the little bits that the teams learned together and put them together for St. Petersburg.
THE MODERATOR: You just mentioned St. Petersburg, just a few weeks ahead. You didn't race there last year. What is your first (indiscernible)?
JAMES HINCHCLIFFE: It's kind of funny I'll be coming here for the first time in an IndyCar. It's one of the coolest events we have, a great place to start the season. Coming into it, it's tougher to know what to expect. There's so many unknowns right now; three new engine manufacturers, new chassis. It's not yet clear who has a handle on things. Based on the testing times, it all seems quite close, to be honest.
I am not sure what to expect. I think it's going to be a tough weekend for everyone with all new equipment, new team for me, new engines all around. It will be very interesting. Certainly one worth watching.
THE MODERATOR: Let's open it up for questions for James Hinchcliffe.
Q. Talk technical for me if you can. You had a few laps with this Dallara, the Chevy, an entirely different car. Give us your impressions and compare it to last year's car.
JAMES HINCHCLIFFE: I mean, it's got four Firestones and a steering wheel. There's not a lot that translates from last year's car to this car. It has a lot more downforce, which we as drivers love. We can hustle the thing around some corners, which is cool. The brakes probably have been the biggest thing for me, moving from steel to carbon, it takes a different technique, use the brake pedal, something I had to get used to. That's probably been the biggest learning curve for me so far.
As far as the engine goes, a completely different powerplant, the architecture, six cylinder, 2.2 liter, twin turbocharged on the Chevy.
I did some full-fuel stints at Sebring. You're holding onto the rear tires at the end of the stint. Slipping and sliding around a lot this year, kind of how it used to be back in turbo days. I think it's going to let drivers have more control over tire wear. Now you're going to have to be cautious about what you're doing with the car and your right foot.
Q. You're pretty confident they're going to get this thing up to trim and optimum performance for ovals?
JAMES HINCHCLIFFE: It all depends on what your definition of 'optimum performance' is. The key for us is to put on a good race. If that means the race happens at 210 miles an hour rather than 220, so be it. We're less focused on that top number right now because we want to make sure that the product is good on track.
The oval tests that are being done, the series tests that are being done, it's all trying to find the right package for the ovals and that we have good, safe racing. If that means we're a few miles down from last year, so be it.
It's also our first time running this car on ovals, whereas the old car, we had eight, nine years to get that thing nice and slippery, all the tricks to get the speed up.
We're not worried about the top speed as long as we get the racing good.
Q. I wanted your thoughts on what you learned over the 2011 season behind the wheel.
JAMES HINCHCLIFFE: How long do we have (laughter)?
2011 was the most significant year of my racing career and most educational as well. When you come up through the junior ranks, there are certain things you pick up at each level, the car steps up a little bit more, but a lot of the basics are the same.
To jump from Lights to IndyCar, the final rung of the ladder, is the biggest one by far because all of a sudden your races are twice the distance, you're dealing with pit stops for the first time, fuel strategies, saving fuel, different tire compounds. There's so many different elements and variables that get tossed at you all in one go when you make that last step.
There is a lot of learning to do. For me, I picked up a ton. I was prepared very well by the team. I learned an awful lot off Oriol, racing the other guys around me in the series. These guys are some of the best drivers in the world. Just driving beside them, you can learn a lot just watching how they do what they do. Learn a lot about race craft, the strategy side of the sport. I'm glad I got to do that in a car that was a little more (indiscernible). Now heading into this year, the variable is the car. Everything else I've had at least a year of experience with.
Q. You had three 4th-place finishes last year. What do you have to do this year to get on the podium?
JAMES HINCHCLIFFE: Yeah, we were close a couple times. It's funny, really makes you highlight how much of a (indiscernible) sport this is. Takes everything going your way and a little bit of luck.
I think we're poised this year to make that happen. Andretti Autosports is obviously a fantastic team. They've won a lot of races. They've won multiple championships, multiple 500s. These guys know how to get it done.
With Ryan, Marco and myself, we have a strong lineup and good chemistry. I'm confident working with this team, the experience they have, what I can draw off my two teammates now, put it together with just a good weekend, a little bit of luck, I think we'll end up on that podium, for sure.
THE MODERATOR: AGR had three different cars win races last year. You're stepping into one of those cars. Do you feel any pressure to succeed based on the car you have for 2012?
JAMES HINCHCLIFFE: I think there's pressure in any car. At the end of the day, a racing driver is such a competitive person, they put so much pressure on themselves, more than any external factor could do. Whether you're driving a blank white car or Go Daddy green car, the pressure you put on yourself is the same.
You want to win. That's why we strap in these cars every weekend, is to go out there and try to win a race. Like you say, they won three different races with three different drivers last year. That just proves the quality and competitiveness of every single member of this team.
Going into this year, it puts us in a good position to try to replicate that feat. If we can get all three of our drivers into Victory Lane this year, that would be tremendous.
For me, I'm obviously hungry to get that first win. Andretti Autosport thrives and loves helping a driver get their first win.
On a personal note, I really want to be the one that gets Go Daddy their first win. There's a lot of elements there in the mix. There's a lot of desire. We're going to be pushing hard to make that happen.
THE MODERATOR: You mentioned your sponsor, Go Daddy. They're known for some pretty irreverent ads. You're shameless in what you will do on video. Do you find that this sponsorship partnership is, like, a match made in heaven.
JAMES HINCHCLIFFE: I think it is for a lot of reasons, more than just that. The communication I've had with everybody at Go Daddy so far has been phenomenal. They've been so welcoming. They're an incredible group of people, a really incredible company.
I had a chance to go to their headquarters last weekend and really see what the company was all about, everything they do, which is so much more than just domain names. You don't really get a true feeling of that until you see their headquarters.
But, no, I think, like you say, with sort of my personality, the company's approach, there's certainly some serious potential there for us to have some fun and make some new waves. Obviously the ads that they've done in the past had a predominant element (indiscernible). I think it opens up new co-opportunities for us.
THE MODERATOR: It appears we have no further questions. With that we will thank you for your time today, James, and wrap-up today's IZOD IndyCar Series conference call.
JAMES HINCHCLIFFE: Thank you.
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