Hildebrand takes trip with Oracle Team USA

Cross another item off JR Hildebrand's bucket list.

The sophomore IZOD IndyCar Series driver has flown in an F-16 and National Guard helicopter, driven an off-road truck over a rugged terrain course, tested a Formula One racecar and even taken a Cadillac CTS-V for a little drifting. On Aug. 21, he sailed with Oracle Team USA as it prepared for this week's America's Cup World Series in San Francisco Bay.

Wind power replaced the horsepower of his No. 4 National Guard Panther Racing car as Hildebrand joined skipper James Spithill and the crew of the America's Cup defender for a close-up view of teamwork and technology aboard the AC45.

"It's obviously a whole different animal, but there are a lot of things that are similar to driving a race car," said Hildebrand, a native of nearby Sausalito, Calif. "It was amazing how quick the boat gets going and how sensitive everything is. The five guys onboard all have a specific job and their communication is very streamlined.

"It was cool to really get in there and see it. I got a chance at the end to steer the boat and feel how quickly things change and how quickly the boat can switch direction. It gives you a whole new appreciation for how detail-oriented those guys are and how much they maneuver around on the boat. It's very physical."

Before the excursion, Hildebrand visited the team's base of operations.

"It was great to be able to see them building the boats," he said. "There is a lot of technology and engineering involved, and they're doing a lot of the same things – using carbon fiber and computer simulation – all very similar to how we go through the development process for a race car. These are racing boats, and they're built for one purpose and that's to go fast."

Hildebrand will compete in the GoPro Indy Grand Prix of Sonoma this weekend at the raceway in Sonoma, Calif.

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