Swarms of fans have surrounded the No. 5 Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda in the paddock this weekend.
James Hinchcliffe, the driver of the black and gold Honda, hails from nearby Oakville, Ontario; only 40 kilometres away from downtown Toronto.
Hinchcliffe is a fan favourite at nearly any racetrack, whether it’s in Canada or the United States, but Toronto is an especially big race for him. The driver schedules appearance after appearance throughout the week’s worth of festivities. For the only full-time Canadian driver on the circuit, a home grand prix such as this one could easily be a distraction, but he doesn’t let it interfere with the big picture.
“You try to not let it affect you to much. The goal is to always try to make this one feel like any other race. Treat it the same,” Hinchcliffe said on Sunday after morning warmup. “Obviously that’s tough. Coming home and seeing all the support across the city and Canada is just incredible. I try to take that and use it extra fuel and motivation. Hopefully we can put on a good show for everyone.
“Once the helmet’s down and the visor’s down, a race is a race. It could be in Toronto or Timbuktu. It doesn’t really matter. You have to do the same job. Push it to the maximum. There’s really no room left in your brain to worry about who’s sitting in the grandstands.”
While being back at home may not be a challenge for Hinchcliffe, the track itself is.
“The track’s a challenge here in Toronto,” he said. “I think we have more surface changes here than any other street course we go to. That throws us for a bit of a loop, but we have the car to race to the front. Hopefully the race will go our way.”
The goal for Hinchcliffe today is simple – win. He made the Firestone Fast Six in qualifying, so the Oakville driver will have good track position to start the race.
“Qualifying sixth, not a bad start. We managed to convert that into a podium last year. Still a long ways to go, and we need things to fall our way.”