Portland, OR – The Sierra Sierra Enterprises team is exactly where they want to be after a strong weekend showing at the Portland International Raceway. After claiming two 2nd place finishes, James Hinchcliffe (#9 NOCO/ProWorks) holds the 2nd place spot in the championship quest, trailing teammate Raphael Matos (#6 ProWorks) by 17 points.
Hinchcliffe was poised for strong results going into the Mazda Champcar Grand Prix of Portland Presented by Joe's, a 1.964-mile permanent road course. Having won this race in 2006 and being a strong rain-driver, Hinchcliffe was ready for any road conditions that presented themselves. The rain held itself back through both qualifying rounds on Friday and Saturday at which Hinchcliffe earned both pole positions - an Atlantic first.
As race time approached, so did the downpour, which continued throughout race. Hinchcliffe was able to maintain 2nd place despite the conditions.
"Saturday was obviously very difficult given the conditions. We sort of had to gamble with the setup since we had no time to test, but Sierra Sierra gave me another fast car. It didn't matter what the track was like, my guys gave me a rocket. So we led for most of the race and had pretty much everyone covered; everyone but Wickens, that is! He was closing on me but with the spray it was so hard to close that last second and make a pass. Unfortunately I caught lapped traffic at a really bad part of the track. Robbie closed in, got a run and made it by. Congrats to him, he ran a really good race," said Hinchcliffe.
Just in time for Round 5 on Sunday the rain subsided and Hinchcliffe took his starting position on the pole. On a lap 6 restart, Hinchcliffe would lose his position to Kevin Lacroix (#10 Uni-Select) when Lacroix took a shortcut and Hinchcliffe had to back off to avoid contact:
"Sunday started well, I got a great start and led into corner 1. We had a yellow right away and Kevin was just quicker out of the last corner and got a run. But I knew we had a fast car and could get by. A few laps later, he over shot the chicane in the first corner, and when he rejoined, on what is the widest part of the track, I got pushed onto the dirt and I had to get out of it. Later in the race he made a mistake onto the back straight and I got by, but as I did it the yellow came out. I saw the marshal pull out the yellow in turn 10, and I was ahead, but Champ Car decided the pass wasn't legit and I had to let him back by. We had such a good car again, but I guess I used all my Portland luck up last year! Either way, a great point's weekend and I'm looking forward to Cleveland because I am super hungry to win," said Hinchcliffe.
The first three rounds of the 2007 Cooper Tires Presents the Champ Car Atlantic Championship Powered by Mazda series were dominated by Matos, claiming victory in each. Unfortunately, rainy conditions would dampen Matos' results and his winning streak was brought to an end. Matos took 4th place in Round 4 and 6th place in Round 5.
"The weekend was really complicated in terms of weather. We couldn't perfect the set up because the conditions kept changing. In terms of the outcome, it was a good weekend for the team. I retained my points lead and James [Hinchcliffe] was on the podium both days. On Saturday we had a winning car but I made a mistake on the first lap and fell back to 11th and had to play catch-up. On Sunday we had some qualifying issues so I started 8th. Fortunately, I made a good start and jumped ahead to pick up some positions. I'm looking forward to the upcoming races - I'm very comfortable on tracks like Cleveland and Edmonton. With an engineer and crew as strong as Sierra Sierra, I'm sure that we will do very well in the next few weeks," said Matos.
Upcoming for the Sierra Sierra team is the Champ Car Grand Prix of Cleveland, which will take place at the Burke Lakefront Airport in Cleveland, Ohio on June 22 – 24.