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Motorsport news roundup; Hinchcliffe faces gruelling schedule

James Hinchcliffe, of Canada, kisses his girlfriend Kirsten Dee after winning the IndyCar Series Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg auto race, Sunday, March 24, 2013, in St. Petersburg, Fla.

Chris O'Meara/AP Photo

When life starts getting hectic, savouring the little things makes a ridiculous schedule seem more bearable.

As IndyCar driver James Hinchcliffe stares at summer stretch packed with two tests, seven races, and three trips home to Toronto for appearances, finding a few free minutes here and there will make all the difference in the world.

For Hinchcliffe, three things will be vital to getting him through the next two months: Monday date nights with his girlfriend Kirsten Dee, keeping his exercise routine on track, and direct flights to Toronto from his adopted home in Indianapolis.

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The first two are all about carving out little bits of time to relax in the whirlwind, while the third is all about saving it.

"The weekends are always all about me and high stress and 'be here and do this,' so we try to take Mondays as our off day – we just try to switch off a bit and recharge," said Hinchcliffe, of Oakville, Ont.

"The physical training is a great mental rest – it's a little bit of routine and you have a sense of improving yourself and being more prepared. You are pushing yourself very hard but it does have a rejuvenating effect."

And with a schedule like his, he'll need a bit of re-energizing.

Hinchcliffe is testing at the Pocono Raceway this week before heading to the hot and sticky streets of Houston, Tex. for the season's second doubleheader on June 28-29. A week after Texas, he races 500 miles on July 6 at Pennsylvania's Pocono Raceway, with the Iowa 300 going six days later. From there, it's on to Toronto for the season's third doubleheader at Exhibition Place July 19-20, before heading to the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course for more test days after his home race. The stretch ends a week later at Mid-Ohio with a race on Aug. 3.

In addition to his on-track commitments, Hinchcliffe will also be making three trips to Toronto to promote the July Honda Indy doubleheader. That's where the direct flights come in. Ensuring the trip is only one hour rather than three or four with connections is vital when you have little time to yourself.

"In all honesty, the fact that there's actually an Air Canada direct Indy to Toronto changes my life," he said.

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"I know it sounds really petty, but not having to do two one-hour flights with a one hour layover makes such a difference when you are coming in for those short trips."

By the Numbers: Sixteen-year-old U.S. driver Matt McMurry became the youngest starter in the 82-year history of the 24 Hours of Le Mans. McMurry and his team finished 11th in the LMP2 class and 24th overall, making him the youngest driver to finish the gruelling race.

Although he pushed Ricardo Rodríguez out of the record books as the youngest Le Mans competitor, it should be noted that the Mexican star tried to enter as a 16-year-old but was turned away by the automobile club running the race. He finally got his chance a year later when he drove in the 1959 edition as a 17 year old.

In 1960, Rodríguez finished second overall, setting the record for youngest driver on the podium at Le Mans, one that stands today. He died at age 20 during a practice session for a race in Mexico City.

Random Thoughts: Don't be surprised to see Danica Patrick on the roster of Gene Haas' Formula One team come 2016, when the new outfit is supposed to make its debut.

Although the NASCAR driver will be just shy of her 34th birthday when the 2016 gets under way, being a bit too old to start her first F1 season shouldn't be an issue. Patrick would be a huge draw for the sport, which has seen its television numbers fall steadily in recent years.

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In the team's first season in F1, it's likely that the Haas cars will be bringing up the rear no matter who is in the driver's seat. So, signing Patrick and watching her struggle to stay within five seconds of the frontrunners à la Marussia and Caterham would not be unexpected, and it may mute criticism of her abilities.

On the other hand, with Haas stating more than once that his goal in F1 is to make his eponymous company a global player, putting Patrick in the car would be a stroke of genius. She's already the most famous woman in racing, and the power of having as Haas' point person in his quest for global exposure cannot be denied.

Technically Speaking: In a bit of bad news for the rest of the F1 field, Mercedes has identified and fixed the problem that hobbled its two cars in Montreal during the Canadian Grand Prix and ended its winning streak at six races.

The cars ran into trouble in the Canadian Grand Prix when an electronic control system overheated and failed, which essentially stopped the energy recovery system from working. That in turn caused brake problems. The teams run smaller discs and calipers on the rear because the energy recovery system also helps slow the car.

Overheating due to stomping harder on the brakes to slow his car was the cause of Lewis Hamilton's retirement on Lap 46 in Montreal. Apparently his teammate Nico Rosberg was able to move the balance forward enough to keep his brakes from the same fate and limp home to a second place finish.

Ironically, Rosberg was able to manage a more front bias on the brakes because his car wasn't getting the benefit of the additional 160-horses usually produced by the energy recovery system. Minus the added boost, the smaller discs and calipers managed to slow the car at the ends of the long straights at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve without overheating.

With the problem solved, look for Mercedes to run away and hide in this weekend's Austrian Grand Prix.

Quote of the Week: "I'm not smart enough to tell you whether it's aero or motor. I just know our cars are fast. They run good. It's hard to say. The cars are all pretty equal aero-wise with what the rules are from NASCAR but I'm not good enough to pick it out and tell you that we've got people beat in just one area. It's a team effort."

— Jimmie Johnson when asked how his car sizes up against his competition.

The Last Word: Five years ago, Ferrari threatened to quit Formula One over a proposed budget cap proposed for the 2010 season. After several acrid volleys between the sport's governing body and the Scuderia, the cap never happened and the scarlet cars stayed on the grid. The reality was that Ferrari, which does not advertise and does its talking on the racetrack, never planned to leave because it can't.

The scarlet cars are the only ones to have lined up on the grid in all F1 seasons since 1950, and its supporters expect them to be there every year. It's inconceivable to imagine F1 without Ferrari, but it's also difficult to picture Ferrari moving on without F1. Frankly, its fans wouldn't allow it and Maranello knows it.

So, when Ferrari chairman Luca di Montezemolo launched a salvo against the sport last week over this year's small turbocharged engine formula that had him musing about shifting the Scuderia's focus to Le Mans, few should have taken it seriously.

The headlines that Ferrari would depart F1 were short-lived after Montezemolo's public relations crew rushed to "clarify" things days later, insisting that concluding the scarlet cars might leave F1 was based on their boss' remarks was "a bit of a stretch."

It's also important to note that Ferrari is locked into a deal to compete in F1 until 2020, which means its departure would be at least six seasons away.

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About the Author
Motorsports columnist

There's an old saying about timing being everything in racing and Jeff Pappone's career as a motorsport correspondent shows that it also applies to journalists covering the sport too. More


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