The Honda Indy Toronto curse continues for James Hinchcliffe.
Plagued by a throttle problem before the start of Sunday’s second race, the 26-year-old from Oakville, Ont., was never in contention, falling four laps behind the leaders and taking last among the 21 finishers. A day earlier, Hinchcliffe was a career-best eighth over the 11-turn, 1.75-mile street course at Exhibition Place.
Hinchcliffe finished 11th in 2011 before being forced out last year with engine trouble.
“I was surprisingly calm,” Hinchcliffe said of sitting in his car while his crew worked feverishly to fix it. “I was thinking, ’Yes, it seems about right. It’s Toronto so something had to happen.’
“It’s even more depressing that it happens before the race even starts so you never even had a chance. If it happened halfway through at least you were having fun for a while but it’s not a lot of fun when you’re driving around (four) laps down and you know you’re not in contention for anything.
“It’s a disappointing weekend, eighth and last is nothing to brag about. But I still get the privilege of coming here and racing in front of my home crowd. I’m sorry we couldn’t give them a better show.”
Alex Tagliani of Lachenaie, Que., was 10th, tying a season-best effort, after finishing 17th on Saturday.
“Overall I’m pretty pleased,” said the 39-year-old Tagliani. “The positive is the team is going to continue to be motivated to find a way to get quicker on those new 2013 tires.
“We know how to go fast but the new tires for us are a pretty big headache. The other teams have found a way to find grip and a way to go quick and we’ve lost that pace. It’s the difference between fighting easily in the top six every weekend and struggling to be in the top-10.”
There was no chance of a top-10 finish Sunday for Hinchcliffe. He was scheduled to go from the No. 12 spot but didn’t participate in IndyCar’s first standing start since ‘08 due to a stuck throttle pedal.
That relegated him to the back of the field and by the time his car was pushed back to the pits and the problem was fixed, Hinchcliffe was well behind the race leaders.
“I was just going through the routine of the standing start and as soon as I put my foot on the throttle it stuck 100 per cent about a minute before they were giving the command to start,” he said. “We tried WD-40 but unfortunately that wasn’t the magic fix so we had to replace the pedal.”
And with just two cautions all race, there were precious few opportunities for Hinchcliffe to actually race and seriously try to make up ground.
“We had no yellows to help us out and we ran around the back all day,” he said. “We weren’t going to give up ... but I wasn’t going to mix it up with guys.
“I was (four) laps down so I was letting guys go. It just makes for a long afternoon.”
Scott Dixon won Sunday, his third straight victory to tie Hinchcliffe for most wins this year. While Dixon moved into second in the driver’s standings, Hinchcliffe dropped from fifth to eighth following the two Toronto races.
Two-time champion Paul Tracy remains the last Canadian to win here, doing so in 2003.
This marks the first time the Toronto event has consisted of two races. While fans doubled their racing pleasure, Hinchcliffe said drivers dislike doubleheaders.
“You either have to have doubleheaders at all of them or none of them,” he said. “We as a team didn’t have particularly strong cars here and we get penalized twice as much.
“Nobody in the series will ever warm up to these. They’re too hard on the drivers, they’re too hard on the teams. You get so little practise, it’s so tough to get the car set up right but if we can fill grandstands Saturday and Sunday then we’re going to do them because as much as we might not like it it’s not about us. We can complain all we want but at the end of the day it’s up to the people buying tickets and watching at home and if that’s what they want then we have to find a way to make it work.”
Tagliani’s Barracuda Racing team operates just one car and having to run it in two weekend races is hardly ideal for the team and vehicle.
“With one car, it’s pretty stressful,” he said. “If we have bad luck on the first day we’re in trouble for the (second) race.
“I think it’s good for fans but it’s stressful for us.”
As usual, weekend attendance figures weren’t available. But the combination of ideal summer weather and two races certainly appeared to attract plenty of spectators, a fact not lost upon both Hinchcliffe — a huge fan favourite here — and Tagliani.
“We could’ve stopped halfway through that race knowing we weren’t giving any positions back but we weren’t going to do that because these people came to see the green car go around,” Hinchcliffe said. “Even if it wasn’t for the win we were going to let them see it go around.”
Added Tagliani: “It’s pretty clear to see that this race needs to be on our schedule. The fans got the chance to experience a successful standing start,it was a great weekend in terms of temperature, what can I say? There’s no question this is a good race for our series.”
Notes: Tracy participated in a Stadium Super Truck demonstration event Sunday, crashing out of the seven-vehicle race on the second-last lap. ... Vancouver’s Scott Hargrove was second in the USF2000 championship, 1.153 seconds behind winner Danilo Estrela.
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