Q and A with Servia and Hinchcliffe Telemundo driver Oriol Servia returns to compete in his eighth Indy car race here while Sprott driver James Hinchcliffe will make his Indy car debut in his home event after having competed on this track in the 2006 and 2007 Atlantic races and 2009 and 2010 Firestone Indy Lights races. Hinchcliffe is from Toronto suburb Oakville and first attended the race as an 18 month old. He has returned to the event annually since then with the exception of 2008, when the race was not held.
ORIOL ON WHETHER THE TEAM CAN ADD TO THEIR SUCCESS AT TORONTO THIS YEAR “Yes. I actually think that if everything goes right we could have both cars on the podium. James has been very strong all season long and coming into his home race I am sure he will find some extra speed. It would be great for him, Sprott, Telemundo and the whole team if we could share the podium!”
JAMES ON HIS PREVIOUS RACES IN TORONTO AND HOPES/EXPECTATIONS
The 2011 Honda Indy Toronto will be Hinchcliffe’s fifth race here and FIRST in an Indy car in his home race. He competed in the Firestone Indy Lights races here in 2009 and 2010 and qualified second both times. He finished third in 2009 and 10th in 2010 after contact. He competed in the Atlantic Series here in 2006 and 2007. In 2006, he qualified ninth and finished sixth. In 2007, he qualified fifth and finished 11th after being hit from behind under caution during rain.
“I've raced in Toronto four times and have had a variety of results. I've crashed, I've been taken out, I've been in the front row and been on the podium! So I have really enjoyed the whole spectrum of results here. This year will obviously be a different deal entirely! A top-10 will feel like a win here. I'm going in with no expectations this year. Hopes are a different story! It would be cool to keep up my record in qualifying of getting into Q2 (second round of elimination qualifying), but I know that will be very tough. As far as the race goes, I just want to see the checkered flag. If we could bring home a top-10 in the process, that would be an awesome result.”
JAMES ON HIS EARLIEST – AND FAVORITE -- MEMORY OF THE TORONTO RACE
“The race started in 1986, the year I was born. I attended my first one when I was 18 months old and haven't missed one since! Some of my earliest memories are of using the scaffolding under the grandstands as a jungle gym! One year I remember falling asleep under a table while the cars were on track. It was music to my ears. My favorite memory was meeting Greg Moore though. I stood outside his trailer for over three hours to get his autograph. When he finally came out, my sister and I got to talk to him for 10 minutes. I'll never forget that.”
WHAT’S YOUR POINT(s)?
Telemundo driver Servia is ranked fourth in IZOD IndyCar Series point standings with 214 while Sprott driver Hinchcliffe is ranked 15th with 142 and is only 27 points behind Sunoco Rookie of the Year leader JR Hildebrand who is ranked 9th with 169. Hinchcliffe is only 19 points out of a top-10 rank despite having missed the season-opener in St. Pete.
ANOTHER CANADIAN WIN FOR SERVIA?
Oriol Servia earned his first Indy car win at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve in Montreal in 2005 with Newman/Haas Racing. He has led the past three Toronto events he competed in (2005, 2006, 2007) for a total of 58 laps. Could Toronto be the site of his next Indy car win?
“Well, we have been knocking consistently at door for victory since Long Beach,” said Servia. “It takes more than knocking though! We are getting closer and closer but we still need to improve in some areas. The team has a tremendous record on the Toronto streets and I had my share of good races too. I have led the race many times but never on the last lap so my hope is that we can do that together this time. We seem to like big celebrations; we did quite well at Indy for the 100th anniversary so I hope we continue the streak and we make the 25th in Toronto the best so far.”
ORIOL MAY NOT BE CANADIAN BUT HE HAS A SPECIAL INTEREST HERE…
“My first time in Toronto was in 1998 for the Indy Lights races,” said Servia. “Right away I fell in love with the atmosphere and people in the city. It is one of those races that you don't mind coming early or staying longer after the race. Actually it happened like that in 2004. I stayed for a few extra days and ended up buying a condo downtown so my links with the city have always been strong.”
ORIOL ON HEARTBREAK AND COMING CLOSE IN TORONTO
Servia will compete in his eighth Indy car race in Toronto and first since 2007. His highest finish here of second place came in 2005, his previous Toronto event with NHR and he has led the race his previous three times here. His highest start of third place came in 2007 with Forsythe. In total, he has earned four top-10 finishes in seven starts and he started in the top-five his previous three races here. In order to continue the competitive runs he has had here,
“I have led this race on many occasions and thought that the race was mine and experience showed me that, especially in a street race like this one, you never know what can happen until the last lap. I have been leading and just when I got to Turn 3 it started raining hard and I crashed while having dry tires on. In 2006, I was leading comfortably and was taken out in the Turn 3 braking area also. As they say "practice makes perfect" and it takes a lot of practice at leading to end up winning and then it takes a lot of practice at winning to become good at winning! We are getting there. We have shown that yes we do have a car and team to be leading the race to the checkered flag but in no way is it a given. It will take a perfect weekend for us to be contenders but it is in our hands and nobody else’s to achieve it. I think we have been as strong on ovals or street tracks. The field is so competitive that actually it doesn't really matter where you are or what type of track you are racing on. Basically unless you are having an almost perfect weekend you can forget about (thinking about) being up front. All we have to do is focus on doing our job 100 percent; it is the only way to be contenders.”
AFTER 23 YEARS OF WATCHING FROM THE SIDELINES, “HINCH” IS IN THE BIG RACE
“I realized right away that I was finally going to get to race in my home race,” said Hinchcliffe. “Not only am I from Toronto, but Sprott is based there as well, so this race is really big for me in a lot of ways. The biggest thing for me was knowing that, after 23 years of watching this race from the grandstands, I am going to have a whole new perspective on Sunday afternoon!”
JAMES ON THE PLEASURE AND PAIN OF RACING AT HOME
“The pressure question comes up a lot when you have a home race. Honestly, as a driver, you put so much pressure on yourself to perform no matter what track you're on or what country you're in. All having a home race does is heightens the emotion of the race. If things go well it's that much sweeter, and if they don't, well, it hurts that much more.”
CAN HIS 4TH PLACE FINISH IN LONG BEACH BE REPEATED IN TORONTO?
James earned his highest finish of the season of fourth place on the streets of Long Beach in April. Could that experience help him in Toronto?
“For sure,” said Hinchcliffe. “Long Beach was my first street circuit in this car so it gave me a good idea of what to expect when hustling this thing around city streets! As far as the result? Who knows. These races are so competitive and anything can happen. If we have a strong car and stay out of trouble then I suppose it's a possibility!”
TORONTO IS… CHRISTMAS IN JULY AND A TOWN IN CELBRATION MODE
“I used to say that I got Christmas in July because of this race,” said Hinchcliffe. “It's awesome to think they are celebrating the 25th anniversary. This race is such a big part of the summer season in Toronto and we were really gutted when we missed a year. But it's been back for a few years and is getting stronger every year. I hope this is just the first 25 year celebration of the race with many more to come.”
“It is great to have a race with such history,” added Servia. “The fans have grown up with the race and it creates a unique energy. Fans remember going to the race since they were kids with their parents and now they are bringing their kids. The whole city is in celebration mode during the whole weekend and it is just a blast for any visitors. It all contributes to make this one of the best events of the season.”
JAMES ON MEMORIES OF NEWMAN/HAAS RACING IN TORONTO AND A POT OF MONEY
“I certainly remember in my childhood watching Michael Andretti win what seemed like every year in a Newman/Haas car! We used to do a pool and whoever picked Michael was given the pot of money right away and only had to give it back if he didn't win. Half the time that person didn't have to give the money back! The team obviously has a great record here and it would be awesome to add something to that.”
ON WHETHER “HINCHTOWN” WILL BE WELL-REPRESENTED BY FRIENDS AND FAMILY IN TORONTO
“I don't have any friends! Only joking. I imagine there will be a few friendly faces in the form of family and friends and sponsors. I have never been to this race as an Indy car driver, so I imagine my cheering section will mostly be people I know!”
JAMES ON HIS R&R PLANS FOR HIS RARE WEEKEND OFF
“Funny you should ask! I went up to a lake a few hours north of the city (Toronto) with some friends. The year is pretty hectic so I like getting out into the woods a bit and disconnect from everything. Getting to do this right before the busiest week of my season is a nice break!”
“I love Canada and I'm very proud to be Canadian,” said Hinchcliffe. “It's one of the coolest places to live because it's so diverse - the people, the places, the weather; all of it. It's impossible to pick a favorite thing about being Canadian (although I do prefer the way we spell things like 'favorite'!), but I definitely am proud of the way other countries perceive Canada and Canadians. We have a good reputation in other countries, even if we get made fun of sometimes. We make fun ourselves sometimes! It was a great place to grow up and I will always stay close to Canada.”
ORIOL AND JAMES ON THE ROAD AGAIN – MENTAL AND PHYSICAL PREPARATION
“I love the variety of the series with all different types of tracks we race on,” said Servia. “Just when you and the team are getting used to (racing on) ovals, the street races are back! It is a big adjustment. The team has to completely rebuild the cars as all the suspension setup is completely different. You must also change your mindset as a driver as a lot of different things play a different role, from driving to engineering...”
“The mental preparation is very similar,” added Hinchcliffe. “The physical preparation changes a bit, focusing a little more on strengthening certain areas like your neck and forearms. I really enjoyed getting those ovals under my belt; we had some really fun races. I think four in a row is a good number and so now I'm excited about getting back to the road and street courses and turning right a few times!”
ORIOL AND JAMES ON THE CHALLENGES AND FAVORITE PARTS OF THE TORONTO STREET COURSE
“Toronto demands a perfect car,” said Servia. “It actually requires a complex car setup. It has one of the longest straights of the championship where obviously you want to be fast at so you want to take downforce off the car but then the hard braking areas and the slippery concrete areas at the apex of the corners asks for maximum grip and downforce so, yes, it demands an interesting compromise.”
“The track is quite challenging because it is a good mix of slow and fast corners,” added Hinchcliffe. “It also has a few surface changes that make finding the grip really tough to find and keep consistent through the corner. Also, with the long straight down to Turn 3, there is a big compromise on downforce. I like driving down Lakeshore heading into Turn 3. It's cool because these are roads that I used to drive on every day. It is considerably more fun at 180 mph than in rush hour on a Friday afternoon! The Turns 9-10-11 section at the end of the track is a lot of fun too.”
ORIOL AND JAMES ON THE BEST PLACES FOR PASSING – OF THE YEAR!
“I enjoy the whole complex together and after all this years I have grown to love every bump and every corner,” said Servia. “No doubt that Turn 3 is one the best places to overtake over the whole championship. Now, if they could fix those bumps in that area we would for sure have even more.”
“Turn 1 and Turn 3 are both great passing opportunities,” added Hinchcliffe. “Both are a little tricky because the corners before them are pretty quick, so it's sometimes tough to stay close enough. But when you do, both have big brake zones and see a lot of action during the race.”