Hinchcliffe back for SpeedSource Mazda for Rolex 24 after all

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A month or so ago, it did not appear as though Verizon IndyCar Series star James Hinchcliffe was going to be part of the SpeedSource Mazda lineup for the Rolex 24 at Daytona.

The team confirmed six drivers, split three apiece between its pair of Lola/Multimatic-chassied Mazda SKYACTIV-D LMP2 prototypes. And when I spoke to Hinchcliffe a month ago after his first IndyCar test with new team Schmidt Peterson Motorsports, while he said he had hopes of returning to the Rolex 24, he didn’t expect it to be with Mazda.

But things have evolved. Hinchcliffe, one of Honda’s top IndyCar drivers, did not have a Honda-powered ride available to him for the Rolex 24 – Starworks Motorsport has reverted back to its Dinan BMW powerplant in its Riley DP, and all seats at Honda-powered Tequila Patron ESM and Michael Shank Racing were filled.

So the Canadian, a graduate of the Mazda Road to Indy ladder, will return to the SpeedSource Mazda program for his fourth consecutive year. This will mark his second straight year in the LMP2 car after being part of the outgoing Mazda RX-8 in 2012 and the one-off Mazda6 GX car in 2013, the latter of which provided the genesis for the LMP2 car.

“This will be my fourth year in a row with Mazda, so I think that shows how I feel about them and the level of professionalism that they show,” Hinchcliffe said in a release. “It is a privilege and joy to get to drive for them and it’s a partnership I hope we can keep going for many more years.”

Added John Doonan, director, Mazda Motorsports North America,  “James is a great example of what the Mazda driver development programs are all about. I’ve known him for many years throughout his climb up the Mazda Road to Indy ladder to become a winning driver in IndyCar. He is a great young man who brings value to Mazda Motorsports on and off the track. We’re thrilled to have him with us again.”

Hinchcliffe will share the No. 70 entry with Jonathan Bomarito, Tristan Nunez and Sylvain Tremblay. Joel Miller, Tom Long, Ben Devlin and Tremblay will share the sister No. 07 car.

Hinchcliffe is now the 14th driver from this year’s Indianapolis 500 – and there were others ride-hunting this past weekend in Daytona – confirmed for the 2015 Rolex 24.