Hinchcliffe: “It’s races like this that people remember”

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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.”

Final 2023 Rolex 24 at Daytona results, stats

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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — The 2023 Rolex 24 at Daytona overall results were all streaks: two consecutive victories in the endurance classic for Meyer Shank Racing and three in a row for Acura.

And Helio Castroneves became the second driver to win three consecutive Rolex 24s and the first to win in three straight years (Peter Gregg won in 1973, ’75 and ’76; the race wasn’t held in ’74 because of a global oil crisis).

Starting from the pole position, Tom Blomqvist took the checkered flag in the No. 60 ARX-06 that led a race-high 365 of 783 laps with co-drivers Castroneves, Simon Pagenaud and Colin Braun.

RESULTS: Click here for the finishing order in the 61st Rolex 24 at Daytona l By class

Meyer Shank Racing now has two Rolex 24 victories and the 2022 championship since entering the premier prototype category of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship in 2021.

“I think what’s so special about this team is we are a small team compared to some of our opponents, but the atmosphere, the way we work, enables people to get the best out of themselves, and I think that’s why we’re such high achievers,” Blomqvist said. “I think there’s no egos. It’s a very open book, and that just enables each and every one of us to reach our potential. I think that’s why we’ve achieved so much success in really a short time at this level of competition.”

It’s the 16th IMSA victory for MSR.

The 61st running of the Rolex 24 at Daytona marked the debut of the Grand Touring Prototype category that brought hybrid engine technology to IMSA’s top level.

In other categories:

LMP2: James Allen passed Ben Hanley on the final lap and delivered a victory in the No. 55 ORECA by 0.016 seconds. It’s the second IMSA victory for Proton Competition, which last won at Sebring in 2012. It was the first Rolex 24 victory for Allen and co-drivers Gianmaria Bruni, Fred Poordad and Francesco Pizzi.

GTD Pro: Cooper MacNeil won in the last start of his IMSA career as the No. 79 Mercedes-AMG GT3 scored the first Rolex 24 at Daytona for WeatherTech Racing and the team’s fourth career victory.

MacNeil, who co-drove with Maro Engel, Jules Gounon and Daniel Juncadella, earned his 12th career victory and first at the Rolex 24.

“Winning by last IMSA race is tremendous,” MacNeil said.

GTD: The No. 27 Heart of Racing Team delivered the first Rolex 24 at Daytona for Aston Martin, which has been competing in endurance races at Daytona International Speedway since 1964. Drivers Marco Sorensen, Roman De Angelis, Darren Turner and Ian James (also the team principal) earned the victory in the English brand’s 13th attempt.

It’s also the first Rolex 24 at Daytona win for Heart of Racing, which has seven IMSA wins.

LMP3: Anthony Mantella, Wayne Boyd, Nico Varrone and Thomas Merrill drove the No. 17 AWA Duqueine D08 to victory by 12 laps for the team’s first class win in IMSA.


STATS PACKAGE FOR ROLEX 24 HOURS OF DAYTONA:

Fastest laps by driver

Fastest laps by driver after race (over the weekend)

Fastest laps by driver and class after race

Fastest lap sequence

Lap chart

Leader sequence

Race analysis by lap

Stint analysis

Time cards

Pit stop time cards

Best sector times

Race distance and speed average

Flag analysis

Weather report

NEXT: The 2023 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season will resume with the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring March 18 with coverage across NBC, USA and Peacock.