James Hinchcliffe’s last-turn move on Takuma Sato to win Sunday’s Sao Paulo Indy 300 put an exclamation point — or maybe several — on one of the best races in IZOD IndyCar Series history.
Sunday’s event was a dramatic lead-in to the Indianapolis 500, filled with gutsy drives and heartbreaking moments. But it all came to a climax when Hinchcliffe moved high and then dove low on Sato through the final hairpin to take the lead and win the race in front of a roaring crowd on the Sambadromo.
And while there won’t be much carryover from the Anhembi Park street circuit to the legendary Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the electric finish will always remain in Hinchcliffe’s mind.
“It’s races like this that people remember,” said Hinchcliffe, who became the first Canadian driver to win in Brazil since his hero, the late Greg Moore, won in 1998 in Rio de Janeiro. “It was a good show right from the start of the race till the end, a lot of passing, changes in strategy, things like that. I think to make a last-corner pass, that’s something I’ll remember for a long time.”
In the final laps, Hinchcliffe made multiple attempts to pass Sato on the massive backstretch that leads to the Turn 11 hairpin, but was stopped by the ex-Formula One driver with moves that some saw as merely defensive and others saw as blatant chopping (Race Control reviewed Sato’s tactics during the final laps against both him and another contender, Josef Newgarden, but took no action on either instance).
But on the last circuit, Sato came into the hairpin too fast and needed to brake, causing his Honda’s back end to slightly but visibly step out on him. Hinchcliffe had the space he needed and proceeded to strike.
With his second win of 2013 in hand, Hinchcliffe now sets his sights on the Brickyard, where he qualified on the front row and finished sixth last season. He expects to have his highs and lows during the “Month of May,” invoking the words of a fellow driver to describe how Indy can be.
“Oriol Servia compared Indianapolis to a woman: Some days she loves you, treats you well, [and] some days, she is mad at you and you don’t know why,” said Hinchcliffe. “That’s one of the reasons for being there at Indy for the whole month, the race being as long as it is, predict what it’s going to do, change and react to the changes. It’s a very, very challenging racetrack.”
But no matter what he does at IMS in the upcoming weeks, people will indeed remember his heroics on the streets of Sao Paulo.
“That’s IndyCar racing — that’s what it’s about,” his team owner Michael Andretti said on Sunday. “It seems that so many of these races go down the last turn of the last lap. That’s what makes this such a great sport.”