|IndyCar driver James Hinchcliffe is pumped about the new season which opens in St. Petersburg, Fla., later this month. (Stan Behal/QMI Agency)
TORONTO - Last season Canada's James Hinchcliffe became the first Canadian since Jacques Villeneuve to win rookie of the year honours in the IZOD IndyCar series.
And on Thursday in a visit to Toronto to promote his new job as driver of the No. 27 Andretti Autosport GoDaddy.com Dallara Chevrolet Hinchcliffe said he is having a major bout of deja vu as he prepares for the season’s first race at the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, March 25.
“I was telling some people recently that I want to go for rookie of the year again,” he said. “I’ve got a brand new team; brand new cars; brand new engine. I feel like a rookie all over again.”
Hinchcliffe landed one of the most prized seats in all of motorsports when he took over the No. 27 DW12 from Danica Patrick when she moved to racing full time in NASCAR.
He said it has made his learning curve a lot steeper but it is a step that he was more than happy to make.
“I couldn’t have landed in a better place than with Andretti Autosport, a proven team; multiple championships; multiple Indy 500s,” Hinchcliffe said. “And of course with GoDaddy — probably the most visible sponsor in all of sports.
“I am just super happy and super excited to be part of their program.”
Another factor that has got the 25-year-old from Oakville pumped is that for the first time since 2005 the IndyCar grid will feature more than one — in fact three — engine manufacturers (Honda, Chevrolet and Lotus), something that will certainly increase the competitiveness on the track.
“And now going into the new season we have multiple engine manufacturers again,” Hinchcliffe said. “It is going to be fun having that war again.
“The real excitement going into St. Petes is that nobody really knows who is going to have the quickest engine. We have to accept that for the first time in over half a decade there is good chance that races are going to be determined on engine reliability.”
As for his Chevrolet engine, Hinchcliffe said it has performed very well in pre-season tests but he is looking forward to getting on the track in an open test next week at Sebring to see how the engine compares to the Hondas and Lotuses
“I think after the open test at Sebring we will have a little bit better idea of where everybody stacks up,” he said. “But I am absolutely happy. The Chevy has been very quick everywhere and has been very reliable. You are going to have your teething problems but that is going to happen with any new motor.”
Penske Racing announced Thursday that it will move to Ford in the NASCAR Sprint Cup and Nationwide Series starting in the 2013 season. That leaves Dodge without a Cup team for the first time since it came back into NASCAR in 2002 ... Ex-Formula 1 driver Rubens Barrichello has reached a deal to drive in the IZOD IndyCar Series for KV Racing Technology this season.