Hinchcliffe on Mazda’s year-on-year growth: “It’s night and day”


When last we spoke to new Schmidt Peterson Motorsports’ recruit James Hinchcliffe, he was fresh off his first test in the team’s No. 77 Dallara DW12-Honda and was still sorting out his Rolex 24 at Daytona plans.

The Canadian reunited with Sylvain Tremblay’s SpeedSource organization, and was back in the team’s No. 70 Mazda SKYACTIV-D LMP2 prototype for the race despite not initially being in the plans.

It was a welcome reunion for the driver whose history with SpeedSource dates back a decade.

“Honestly it was a quick call between John (Doonan, Director, Mazda Motorsports) and I,” Hinchcliffe told MotorSportsTalk at the Rolex 24. “We’ve had a relationship for a bunch of years. It goes back to 2005 with SpeedSource. It is a second family.

“Getting to come back is great. Getting to continue is great. This new project is great. This development has been incredible. Having not been in (this car) since this race last year, it was pretty overwhelming.”

Hinchcliffe’s race, where he co-drove with Tremblay and full-season drivers Jonathan Bomarito and Tristan Nunez, ended due to a terminal oil pump failure.

But in his week of driving it, Hinchcliffe raved about the year-on-year improvements since his last drive in the car at the 2014 Rolex 24.

“It’s 100% different,” he said. “I hit the brakes, and it isn’t even fair. It’s not even a comparison. Never mind the engine how much that’s improved. These guys deserve so much credit. With the gains made, in a year, they should be running right up there.

“The situation was atypical last year,” he added. “Now we’re in an environment where we are more familiar. We’re not having to drive to the rear view mirror. Last year we were watching the fight. Now we are in it.”

It was a breakthrough drive for Mazda with the sister No. 07 car, driven by Tom Long, Joel Miller, Ben Devlin and Tremblay, breaking through to lead the car’s first laps in TUDOR United SportsCar Championship competition, and also becoming the first diesel to lead overall at Daytona. Long had the honors.

“It is so meaningful for our Mazda team to lead the race today,” Doonan said. “It is the result of tireless work from this team over the past 12 months. Mazda has 23 class wins at Daytona, but the first time to lead the race overall, so it’s a big day for the brand.”

As for Hinchcliffe, with no further sports car races on the horizon, he has two IndyCar tests upcoming. He and Conor Daly will test at Sebring on Feb. 3, with Hinchcliffe then set for two days at NOLA Motorsports Park the following week.

Hinchcliffe’s personal sponsor Spyder active wear released this video after the first Sebring test in December.

Houston Supercross by the numbers: Five riders begin to gap the field


Chase Sexton stumbled in San Diego and Eli Tomac had a hard fall in Anaheim 2, but the Monster Energy Supercross numbers for Houston suggest they will continue to be the ones to beat in Houston. To do so, they will have to turn back challenges from another pair of riders who have swept the top five in the first three rounds and another with a worst finish of sixth.

Houston Supercross numbers
Cooper Webb’s ability to close races makes him a Houston favorite. – Feld Motor Sports

Despite an accident in his heat in San Diego that sent him to the Last Chance Qualifier (LCQ), Sexton recovered to score a top-five that weekend. His podium finish in Anaheim 1 and overall win last week in Anaheim 2 makes him one of the three riders with a perfect top-five record. He is joined by Cooper Webb, who finished second in the first two rounds and fourth last week, and Ken Roczen, whose consistency in the first three races contributed to him grabbing the top spot in this week’s NBC Supercross Power Rankings.

There are reasons to believe Webb and Roczen can keep those streaks alive.

Webb is the only multiple winner at Supercross’ current Houston stadium. His pair of wins came in 2019 and 2021, the same year he won his two 450 championships.

Clinton Fowler points out this week, that Webb has carried that strength into 2023. Webb had a late surge in Anaheim 1, advancing from fifth to second in the final six laps. In San Diego, he set his ninth fastest lap with two to go and his eighth fastest on the final lap. He posted his fastest lap of Anaheim 2 on Lap 12 while the rest of the field did so on Lap 6 on average.

By comparison, Tomac set his 14th fastest lap on the final circuit in route to winning the Main at San Diego while he was trying to keep Webb at bay.

With a sixth at San Diego, Dylan Ferrandis barely missed sweeping the top five in his first three races as did Tomac with a sixth last week at Anaheim 2.

This will be the 46th year Supercross has visited Houston and with 55 races the city is tied for the second-most with Detroit.

Jim Pomeroy won the first race in the Astrodome during the inaugural season of 1974 on a 250, which was the premiere class at the time. Houston was one of three races held that year along with events at Daytona International Speedway and the Los Angeles Coliseum. All three venues return in 2023 with the first SuperMotocross championship finale returning to the famed LA Coliseum in September.

Webb won most recently in 2021 in the final race of three held there that year as the series executed a strategy of racing in residencies to limit travel during height of the COVID-19 pandemic. Tomac and Justin Barcia also won in Houston in 2021.

Two privateers have started the season on a high note.

Joshua Cartwright and Joshua Varize have each made the last two Mains. Cartwright finished 18th in San Diego and 21st last week in Anaheim 2 – all while working fulltime as a Business Intelligence Analyst at the University of Texas, Dallas. Varize earned a top-15 (12th) in San Diego and was 21st in Anaheim 2 in his third season on a 450.

Michael Mosiman scored his first 250 win last year in San Diego. – Feld Motor Sports

The numbers show none of the active 250 Supercross East riders have won in Houston, so no matter who steps on top of the box, there is going to be a fresh face. That is not surprising since most of the top competitors have not raced at this venue yet.

Michael Mosiman has a pair of top-fives there, however. His best finish was a second in the second 2021 race. Garrett Marchbanks scored a top-10 in his rookie season of 2019 in Houston.

In the 250 East division, Hunter Lawrence is one of the favorites to win the title now that Christian Craig has moved to 450s. Last year he had four wins and nine podiums, but failed to set a fast lap in a race.

The other 250 riders with 2022 wins this week are Mosiman, who earned his first Supercross win last year in San Diego, and Nate Thrasher, who became the fifth new class winner at Daytona.

Jeremy Martin will attempt to extend a record this week in Houston. His division leading SuperMotocross podiums number 65. He has 26 wins in the combined sessions, which ranks fourth all time.

Last Five Houston Winners

2022, no race
2021, Race 3: Cooper Webb
2021, Race 2: Eli Tomac
2021, Race 1: Justin Barcia
2020, no race
2019, Cooper Webb
2018, Jason Anderson

2022, no race
2021, Race 3: Colt Nichols
2021, Race 2: Jett Lawrence
2021, Race 1: Christian Craig
2020, no race
2019, Dylan Ferrandis
2018, Aaron Plessinger

By the Numbers

Anaheim 2
San Diego

More SuperMotocross coverage

Supercross unveils 16th edition of a Ricky Carmichael designed Daytona track
Power Rankings after week 3
Malcom Stewart out for “extended duration” after knee surgery
Haiden Deegan makes Supercross debut in Houston, Justin Cooper to 450s
Talon Hawkins set to relieve injured Jalek Swoll in Houston
Jalek Swoll out for an indefinite period with broken arm
Ken Roczen urgently needed a change
Chris Blose joins Pro Circuit Kawasaki in 250 East opener
Seth Hammaker to miss Houston with wrist injury
Jo Shimoda joins Seth Hammaker, Austin Forkner on injured list
Injury sidelines Austin Forkner for remainder of 2023 SX
Chase Sexton wins Anaheim 2 in 450s; Levi Kitchen takes 250s
Results and points from Anaheim 2