Open Test at Barber March 12-13 jump-starts action-packed season
Things are noticeably different this March for James Hinchcliffe, who enters his second season with Andretti Autosport in the IZOD IndyCar Series. Calmer, more organized and clearer.
"The winter of 2012, the preseason of 2012 there were so many unknowns with the car and for me with the team, engines, everything," the Toronto native said. "Now there are so many of those that are known quantities, and the things that we're looking over and fighting over now are the small details. We've got so many resources to attack those, where last year we were dealing with the big, massive issues.
"It's 95 percent sorted so we can now focus on that 5 percent, whereas last year we were 30 percent sorted."
Hinchcliffe will continue to work on that 5 percent during the first Open Test of the year March 12-13 at Barber Motorsports Park. The 10 a.m.-6 p.m. (ET) sessions will have real-time Timing & Scoring available on indycar.com.
The track time is preparation for the season-opening Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg on March 22-24 on the 1.8-mile temporary street course plus the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama two weeks later on the 2.38-mile, 17-turn Barber circuit.
During both days, IZOD IndyCar Series teams will have the opportunity to practice standing starts, which will be featured during Race 1 of the doubleheader events at Toronto and Houston. The pit box at pit out will be set up with a monitoring and lighting system, allowing drivers to practice the standing start launch.
"Now it's all on the table; everybody is going to be there on the same track, same days and we'll see how everybody stacks up," Hinchcliffe said.
Hinchcliffe, the 2011 series Rookie of the Year with Newman/Haas Racing, posted five top-five finishes and eight finishes in the top 10 in 15 races last season. Third at Long Beach and Milwaukee registered as season bests, while he qualified on the front row at Barber and Indianapolis.
Hinchcliffe is confident of additional high finishes, including his first victory, this season. But, at least publicly stated, he won't be pressing for results.
"There are so many things in this sport that are out of your control, setting specific goals like number of wins is very difficult," he said. "It might sound cliché, but as long as I feel we've done the best job that we can and do it week and week out - sometimes hopefully it will be enough to win, some weeks it will be a podium and some weeks it with be an eighth - as long as we feel we've done the best we could on those eighth-place weekends, we'll go home, learn something, figure it out and come back stronger next weekend."
Reigning IZOD IndyCar Series champion Ryan Hunter-Reay and Marco Andretti also return to the team, which has been augmented by five-year veteran E.J. Viso. The chemistry between the drivers was beneficial in developing the chassis-engine package last season, and Hinchcliffe envisions the camaraderie continuing.
"Especially last year when we were dealing with the new car, guys working together the results that produces are just so much greater than guys fighting within a team," he said. "If we all work to make the car better, all of us will be higher up the grid. We'll battle each other on the track, but the more we work together off the track the further up the grid those battles will be happening."