Hinchcliffe heads to Boston for Bridgestone Winter Classic (VIDEO)

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The “Mayor of Hinchtown” is shipping up to Boston.

As the Verizon IndyCar Series prepares to ring in the New Year, two former teammates are spread coast-to-coast to raise awareness of the series and the 100th Indianapolis 500 at two marquee New Year’s Day events.

While Andretti Autosport’s Ryan Hunter-Reay paced the field in an Acura NSX for the Tournament of Roses Parade in Pasadena, Calif. ahead of the Rose Bowl (Stanford vs. Iowa), his past teammate James Hinchcliffe will be on the opposite side of the country, in Boston, for the annual Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic (1 p.m. ET, NBC).

This year, it’s the Montreal Canadiens versus the Boston Bruins, at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Mass. Hinchcliffe is on-hand at Gillette to catch all of the action between the Bruins and Habs alumni, despite being a Maple Leafs fan. Hinchcliffe said in the above video he’s “100 percent” after his recovery from injuries sustained earlier this year.

The game will happen, meanwhile, with a high temperature of 40 degrees expected outside.

“Being the token Canadian kid for so long, I guess it was time to go,” Hinchcliffe told MotorSportsTalk. “I’ve watched this for so many years.

“But we’re always looking to get out there a little bit. There’s a lot of tie-in with Bridgestone Firestone with NHL and Honda as well. It will be very cool to see it in person.

“It’s one of the huge perks of the job, getting to go to events like this. You look at the setup here. So many people travel an awful long way for this. So you’re kind of inside the line.”

Beyond attending the Bridgestone Winter Classic, Hinchcliffe is in Boston to help promote the first Grand Prix of Boston event for next Labor Day weekend, and he’ll join a Bridgestone-hosted group from the Boston Boys and Girls Clubs of America (BGCA) as special guests.

On January 2, he’ll lace up the skates with the boys and girls for a free-skate on the Bridgestone Winter Classic ice. More importantly, his inspirational comeback story will make an already unforgettable experience for these deserving youths even more memorable.

“It’s an organization that Bridgestone has been involved with in the past,” he said. “This is us giving back to the communities … and we do have the race coming to town soon.”

This is Hinchcliffe’s first trip to Boston and the warm weather has been a welcome surprise. The trip is also serving as a quick scouting mission ahead of the race.

“It’s exciting to get to see it. Living in Indianapolis, you’re sort of told not root for the Patriots. But it’s cool to come here and see the stadium. We’re in downtown, in the center, and we’ll see if I can pass along any secrets to my engineer,” he joked.

“The layout looks good for sure,” he added. “So many tracks look good on paper, but end up being processional. Then some you get barnburners. We won’t know for sure until we’re on track. The area in town is awesome. There’s a great atmosphere and should be fun to come back here year one.”

Ford unveils a new Mustang for 2024 Le Mans in motorsports ‘lifestyle brand’ retooling

Ford Mustang Le Mans
Ford Performance
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LE MANS, France — Ford has planned a return to the 24 Hours of Le Mans with its iconic Mustang muscle car next year under a massive rebranding of Ford Performance aimed at bringing the automotive manufacturer “into the racing business.”

The Friday unveil of the new Mustang Dark Horse-based race car follows Ford’s announcement in February (and a ballyhooed test at Sebring in March) that it will return to Formula One in 2026 in partnership with reigning world champion Red Bull.

The Mustang will enter the GT3 category next year with at least two cars in both IMSA and the World Endurance Championship, and is hopeful to earn an invitation to next year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans. The IMSA entries will be a factory Ford Performance program run by Multimatic, and a customer program in WEC with Proton Competition.

Ford CEO Jim Farley, also an amateur sports car racer, told The Associated Press the Mustang will be available to compete in various GT3 series across the globe to customer teams. But more important, Farley said, is the overall rebranding of Ford Performance – done by renowned motorsports designer Troy Lee – that is aimed at making Ford a lifestyle brand with a sporting mindset.

“It’s kind of like the company finding its own, and rediscovering its icons, and doubling down on them,” Farley told the AP. “And then this motorsports activity is getting serious about connecting enthusiast customers with those rediscovered icons. It’s a big switch for the company – this is really about building strong, iconic vehicles with enthusiasts at the center of our marketing.”

Ford last competed in sports car racing in 2019 as part of a three-year program with Chip Ganassi Racing. The team scored the class win at Le Mans in 2016 in a targeted performance aimed to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Ford snapping Ferrari’s six-year winning streak.

Ford on Friday displayed a Mustang with a Lee-designed livery that showcased the cleaner, simplified look that will soon be featured on all its racing vehicles. The traditional blue oval with Ford Performance in white lettering underneath will now be branded simply FP.

The new mark will be used across car liveries, merchandise and apparel, display assets, parts and accessories and in advertising.

Farley cited Porsche as an automaker that has successfully figured out how to sell cars to consumers and race cars in various series around the world while creating a culture of brand enthusiasts. He believes Ford’s new direction will help the company sell street cars, race cars, boost interest in driving schools, and create a merchandise line that convinces consumers that a stalwart of American automakers is a hip, cool brand.

“We’re going to build a global motorsports business off road and on road,” Farley told the AP, adding that the design of the Mustang is “unapologetically American.”

He lauded the work of Lee, who is considered the top helmet designer among race car drivers.

“We’re in the first inning of a nine inning game, and going to Le Mans is really important,” Farley said. “But for customer cars, getting the graphics right, designing race cars that win at all different levels, and then designing a racing brand for Ford Performance that gets rebranded and elevated is super important.”

He said he’s kept a close eye on how Porsche and Aston Martin have built their motorsports businesses and said Ford will be better.

“We’re going in the exact same direction. We just want to be better than them, that’s all,” Farley said. “Second is the first loser.”

Farley, an avid amateur racer himself, did not travel to Le Mans for the announcement. The race that begins Saturday features an entry from NASCAR, and Ford is the reigning Cup Series champion with Joey Logano and Team Penske.

The NASCAR “Garage 56” entry is a collaboration between Hendrick Motorsports, Chevrolet and Goodyear, and is being widely celebrated throughout the industry. Farley did feel left out of the party in France – a sentiment NASCAR tried to avoid by inviting many of its partners to attend the race so that it wouldn’t seem like a Chevrolet-only celebration.

“They’re going right and I’m going left – that NASCAR thing is a one-year deal, right? It’s Garage 56 and they can have their NASCAR party, but that’s a one-year party,” Farley said. “We won Le Mans outright four times, we won in the GT class, and we’re coming back with Mustang and it’s not a one-year deal.

“So they can get all excited about Garage 56. I almost see that as a marketing exercise for NASCAR, but for me, that’s a science project,” Farley continued. “I don’t live in a world of science projects. I live in the world of building a vital company that everyone is excited about. To do that, we’re not going to do a Garage 56 – I’ve got to beat Porsche and Aston Martin and Ferrari year after year after year.”

Ford’s announcement comes on the heels of General Motors changing its GT3 strategy next season and ending its factory Corvette program. GM, which unlike Ford competes in the IMSA Grand Touring Prototype division (with its Cadillac brand), will shift fully to a customer model for Corvettes in 2024 (with some factory support in the IMSA GTD Pro category).