(via Detroit Free Press) – Watch for the “Eh team” this weekend.
James Hinchcliffe and Robert Wickens grew up karting against each other in Canada. They have been reunited as teammates, driving Hondas for Schmidt Peterson Motorsports in the Verizon IndyCar Series this season.
They spoke about their long friendship in separate interviews after the first practice session on Friday of the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix presented by Lear on the Raceway on Belle Isle. Since Canadians are known for saying “Eh” when talking, Hinchcliffe and Wickens decided to call themselves the “Eh team” this season.
“Honestly, racing is not about cars or engines or tires or any of that,” Hinchcliffe said. “It’s about people. And if you get the right mix of people, the right group together, success is going to come. It’s just a fact. It’s been proven time and time again.
“Robbie was such a great addition to the team because it brought in a very strong character, a very strong driver. A guy that I know, I trust, I respect. And he’s earned all of those things from the team as well in the very short time that he’s been here. We’re just really putting together this great group of people that is eventually going to lead to us having, I think, a lot of success together.”
Wickens said he couldn’t remember the last time they had a disagreement with each other. If they have one, he said their friendship would allow them to quickly get over it.
Wickens, from Guelph, Ont. and Hinchcliffe, from Oakville, Ont., each finished in the second half of drivers in the second practice. Wickens was 15th (1:18.9724) and Hinchcliffe was 21st (1:19.6973) among 23 drivers.
“We had some problems on our car with our brakes,” Hinchcliffe said. “Robbie had some other issues himself. The format of this weekend is very difficult with just two short practice sessions before the first qualifying. Rolling off the truck with a very good car is sometimes the key to having a good weekend. Unfortunately, we missed it a little bit. We had some problems that we didn’t see coming in the first practice.”
Hinchcliffe is coming off the disappointment of failing to qualify for the Indianapolis 500 last month.
“I’m over it,” he said. “Because of the structure of that whole race — we had a full week between qualifying and the race and another full week between the race and now — I’ve had a lot of time to get over it. As an athlete, we’re all trained to deal with loss very quickly, get over it quickly, get on to the next challenge. In the sporting world terms, two weeks is an eternity. So, it’s behind us as a team. We’re head down, looking forward, trying to get the best results we can here in Detroit.”
Wickens had never raced on Belle Isle before in his career and said he didn’t like the track after the first session.
What was Hinchcliffe’s advice to his pal about racing on Belle Isle?
“Wear a mouthguard,” Hinchcliffe said chuckling. “It’s a really, really bumpy circuit. It’s quirky. It’s go some cool characteristics, for sure. But, it’s one of the least comfortable places we race, just because of the surface chances, the bumps. Robbie is obviously coming from a European racing background where the qualify circuits is much, much higher. There’s no way around that. That’s just a fact. I think it was a bit of a shock for him.”
The Detroit Grand Prix is often considered the “home race” for Team Penske and Chevrolet. The GM Renaissance Center a few miles away and team owner Roger Penske being the driving force behind IndyCar racing on Belle Isle.
But for Hinchcliffe and Wickens, this weekend has a bit of a home feel as well.
“A lot of Canadian flags in the stands,” Hinchcliffe said. “Other than Toronto, it’s the only other race they play the Canadian anthem before the race. For us, yeah, it is like a second home race.”