Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin – James Hinchcliffe endured a low-key finish to the 2007 Cooper Tires Presents The Champ Car Atlantic Championship Powered by Mazda as the Canadian racer battled a broken front-wing mount to post a 14th place finish in the final round of the season at Road America, Wisconsin.
Looking to steer the #9 NOCO/ProWorks Swift Mazda-Cosworth to a win in Round 12, having arrived in Elkhart Lake with everything but a victory in his sophomore season, Hinchcliffe’s weekend started well as the 20-year-old posted the ninth fastest time in Friday qualifying. Saturday’s second session proved cruel to the Toronto native with James eventually securing 14th on the grid for Sunday’s 50-minute race – his second lowest starting slot this season thanks to braking and steering issues. With eight top-five starts to his credit, including three pole positions, James’ mid-pack position would provide him with a relatively new perspective heading into the final round.
At the head of the field Franck Perera smashed the Champ Car Atlantic Championship track record at the 4.048-mile Road America circuit, the Frenchman claiming his second pole with a hot lap of 1m58.883s (122.581mph) alongside Friday’s fastest runner, America’s Jonathan Edwards in second.
Hinchcliffe started Sunday with the 11th fastest time in the pre-race warm-up but that was about as good as it got for the popular racer. Dropping a spot at the start, he rose to 11th by lap three before the first of two full-course cautions interrupted play. Down to 13th by the second safety period, James passed Robert Wickens for 12th at the green flag but the second half of the race would prove to be a rollercoaster affair with James attempting to overcome the broken front-wing mount.
With his hands full battling chronic under-steer, James traded places back and forth with the likes of Adrian Carrio and Matt Lee before he became, in his own words, a sitting duck. The final ignominy to be suffered by Hinchcliffe was contact with Alan Sciuto on the final lap at Canada Corner of all places. Down to 14th at the checkered, James ended the day securing fourth overall in the Driver Standings having finished 10th overall in his rookie year last season.
Franck Perera converted the pole into his third win of the year with 2007 Champion Raphael Matos coming home second ahead of third placed American rookie Carl Skerlong.
“It was just a really tough weekend and not a great way to end the season,” reflected Hinchcliffe. “We were hoping to go out on a high here but we struggled all weekend and the damage to the car in the race was really the icing on the cake. It was nobody’s fault but just something we didn’t need!”
ESPN2 will air Round 12 from Road America as a tape-delayed broadcast on Wednesday 22nd August starting at 5pm EST.
Top-Five Atlantic Drivers R12/12: 1st Matos (BRA) 341pts – CHAMPION, 2nd Perera (FRA) 310pts, 3rd Wickens (CAN) 255pts, 4th HINCHCLIFFE (CAN) 224pts, 5th Bomarito (USA) 207pts.