IMSA Spotlight: James Hinchcliffe
Driver: No. 70 Mazda RT24-P DPi
What has Mazda meant to you and your career?
“They play such a big role in developing young talent in motorsports in North America and there’s really no other manufacturer that’s ever done it quite like that, and to my knowledge there’s no one else doing it quite like this anywhere in the world.
“As a product of that ladder system, as someone who’s career directly benefited from the effort that they put in, the system that they built, I wasn’t around when the MRTI [started] but it was the same philosophy.
“I drove Mazda-powered cars for a lot of my junior formula car career. What that company has done, what [Mazda Motorsports Director] John Doonan has done, nobody can say enough about what that guy has contributed to motorsports in North America.
“To get to come here and do the 24 every year is a huge honor.”
How many different Mazdas have you driven at the Rolex 24?
“This will be my fourth. Started with the RX-8 with the rotary engine, then the Mazda6 with the diesel engine, then the prototype with the diesel engine, and now the different prototype with the gas engine.
“I’ve had a few different car and engine combinations over the years so it’s been pretty cool to get to develop some of that stuff.”
What are your impressions of the new car?
“From the outside and speaking to the other guys, everyone is excited. It’s a big step forward from the Lola. The collaboration with AER, with Riley, with Multimatic, it really is a multi-pronged attack on this car.
“Getting all those brains together, I think we have a really strong car.”
What makes the Rolex 24 a bucket-list race?
“It’s the history of it. There’s other 24-hour races, there’s a lot over there in Europe. Obviously Le Mans is the grandaddy of them all, and there’s races like the 24 hours of Spa and Dubai. There’s a lot of 24-hour races.
“But Daytona kind of was the staple event, especially here in North America. You think of some of the winners of the past, some of the epic battles, and it’s just one of those [races].
“You can’t buy history. You can build a really cool track or a really cool car to go race anywhere you want, but this place is just seeped with history. For us, it’s always a thrill to race here.”
Would a big Rolex watch throw off your balance when you’re trying to dance?
“No, it would be totally fine. It would actually help. It might have been the missing ingredient! I’ve got to try and get the watch and go back and do [Dancing With the Stars] again.”