Canadian Hinchcliffe rolling on, off the track
Canada’s James Hinchcliffe feels quite comfortable racing at speeds a regular driver can’t even begin to contemplate. It’s when he’s negotiating traffic off the Indycar circuit that the nerves really come out.
“To be honest, the road actually terrifies me,” he said with a laugh while driving in Toronto’s downtown core. “I feel much more comfortable doing 300 kilometres an hour on a racetrack than I do doing 100 on the 401 (highway).”
Hinchcliffe stuck to the speed limit during a wide-ranging, half-hour in-car interview.
The hairpin turns and straightaways of road racing were replaced by different obstacles like aggressive taxi drivers and omnipresent streetcar tracks.
“On the racetrack I’m surrounded by professionals that have dedicated their entire lives to doing this one task,” Hinchcliffe said. “You’re in a purposebuilt car, at a very safe facility, I’m wearing six seat belts and a helmet, and all these great things. On the road, there’s all these things that could jump out at you.
“There’s streetcars, pedestrians, there could be some guy that lost his licence a year ago for driving recklessly and he’s still somehow in a car. You don’t know who you’re around. So it’s a little bit more of an intimidating task.”
Hinchcliffe was in town Monday as part of a media blitz ahead of the July 14-16 Honda Indy Toronto. It’s an event that is close to his heart.
He was just a toddler when he took in the race for the first time and he’s been to every edition since as either a spectator or a participant.
It was on the Exhibition Place grounds where he met his sporting hero, the late Canadian driver Greg Moore, back in 1999.
Hinchcliffe said he waited for over three hours by Moore’s trailer that day as he clutched an old steering wheel that he hoped Moore would sign. Eventually a mechanic noticed the young Hinchcliffe and he had Moore come out to sign the wheel and chat.
“That was an unforgettable moment for me as a kid meeting my hero like that,” Hinchcliffe recalled.
“And obviously it was the last chance I got to meet him because he was killed later that year. So it was a very special moment for me.”