James Hinchcliffe is going to focus on the necessities of life at the 51st running of the Rolex 24 at Daytona, scheduled for next weekend at Daytona International Speedway.
“To shut my mind off and get some sleep — and force yourself to eat,” the Oakville native replied when asked for the keys to this year’s race.
Hinchcliffe will join Jonathan Bomarito, Marino Franchitti, Tom Long and Sylvain Tremblay on the Mazda Motorsports team and will team with Franchitti to drive the all new Mazda6 equipped with an all new SKYACTIV-D clean diesel engine.
The two-car team will run in the premiere of the Grand-Am GX class in the 24-hour event, famous for being the kickoff event of the major-league racing season.
The opening race of the weekend, the Continental Challenge Grand-Am 200, will be held next Friday.
Hinchcliffe raced the Mazda RX-8 at Daytona a year ago and a switch from a gas engine to a diesel will require some adjustments.
“The RX-8 had the rotary engine, which is known to be loudest engine known to man, and the diesel is really low and quiet compared to it,” he said.
“You rely on engine sound for shift points, so in the 6 I’m going to be relying more on shift lights in the dash. You’re not going to hear as much as the gasoline car.”
The IndyCar Series regular — he races for the Andretti Motorsports team — also said he’s preparing for an engine that will have more torque as well as for a chassis that is going to be much heavier than the RX-8.
But after all that, he’s still just a driver looking to get into his car.
“In general, a race car is a race car,” he joked. “It’s got tires and a wheel, and you have to make it go fast.”
Although a one-off in the V8 Supercar series in Australia last year didn’t go as planned, Hinchcliffe believes a driver benefits from experience.
“I really believe you learn something every time you’re on the track,” he said. “The one or two things you can pull out of something like that might help in IndyCar. If I have a good battle with one guy and learn some race craft, that’s only going to help me. For me, I love doing events in different kinds of cars, and getting to drive on tracks you don’t normally drive.”
His concern at Daytona this year is to take better care of himself. According to Hinchcliffe, where he fell off last year was in his ability to maintain the necessities of life during the marathon 24 hours.
“I was so well prepared by the team, I knew exactly what to expect. The only thing I struggled with was when I was told to go and get some sleep. The trick for me this year will be to properly unplug.”
The adrenaline of a 24-hour event takes over your body, Hinchcliffe said. The natural competitor in him wants to stay involved even when he’s not racing.
“The team has a rule that when you’re not racing, you get away. Get your debriefing and get away.”
This year, he said, he’s going to take advantage of the downtime.
Hinchcliffe’s partner in the race will be Marino Franchitti, brother of champion IndyCar driver (and Hinchcliffe’s rival in that series) Dario Franchitti. Marino Franchitti was Hinch’s partner in last year’s race, too.
“Last year was the first time I met Marino, and within eight minutes you would have thought we were separated at birth,” he said.
“We were fast friends. I’m really excited to be asked back. I’m amped to get back in the car together and race together. We can go into it confident we’ll be fighting for a watch.”
Multimatic cars strong
The following was taken from the Grand Am Road Racing Internet site and then edited:
Aston Martin and Markham’s Multimatic Motorsports are off and running in 2013 — and how.
Two of the team’s Vantages occupied the top two spots on the time sheets when the Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge’s portion of the Roar Before the Rolex 24 test ended last Sunday.
“We put nine drivers through two cars in basically two days because Friday was wet and nothing really could be learned,” said Multimatic team principal and vice-president of engineering, Larry Holt.
“No crashes and all drivers were competitive. Very impressive.”
Very impressive indeed.
Multimatic is no newcomer to Continental Tire Challenge. The Canadian team’s participation dates to 2002, when it won eight races and two Grand Sport championships.
The organization — which scored a fourth place overall in its Daytona Prototype debut in the 2003 Rolex 24 — had campaigned Ford Mustangs before switching to the Aston Martin in 2012.
Last year’s results were mixed: three podium finishes, including a second at Barber Motorsports Park by Joe Foster and Toronto’s Scott Maxwell in Multimatic’s No. 55 Vantage.
“This should be a strong season for us,” said Holt. “We think we are on top of the issues we encountered (last season).”
The team has taken delivery of new equipment. Additional personnel have been added to undertake a four-car operation. English engineers and mechanics have come from Aston Martin’s facilities in the U.K.
Multimatic will also work with TRG, which is set to debut a Rolex Series GT car in the season’s second event at the Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Tex.
“The synergy will be positive and there will be cooperation and sharing between the organizations,” said Holt.
Maxwell returns in the No. 55 and will be paired with Jade Buford.
Tonis Kasemets and Michael Marsal will co-drive the No. 71, with Toronto drivers John Farano and David Empringham aboard the No. 15. Nick Mancuso and Frank Montecalvo fill out the roster in the No. 16.
Farano and Empringham had the top Roar lap with Buford and Maxwell second.
“This is the strongest lineup Multimatic has ever had.” said Holt.
Other Canadians expected to contest the Continental Tire race include Kenny Wilden of Oakville, Fraser Wellon of Mississauga and Paul Dalla Lana of Toronto, who will also drive in the Rolex 24 along with Paul Tracy of Toronto and Alex Tagliani of Montreal.
While Speed Channel will televise much of the race, wheels.ca will feature a rolling blog from Daytona to be written by Toronto Star Wheels contributor Gary Grant.
For photos and up-to-the-minute information about Canadians competing in both the Daytona 24 and Continental Tire races, be sure to go to wheels.ca.
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