Michael Caruso’s co-driver for this weekend’s Armor All Gold Coast 600, James Hinchcliffe, says he’s enjoying the daunting task of learning a new car and circuit.
Hincliffe is one of just nine international co-drivers entering the event with no previous experience of a V8 Supercar or the Surfers Paradise street circuit.
The 25-year-old Canadian is a high-profile addition to the field this year having replaced Danica Patrick in Andretti Autosports’ GoDaddy sponsored IndyCar for the 2012 season.
Hinchcliffe was seventh and 14th quickest in today’s two co-driver practice sessions, before watching team-mate Caruso record the fastest time of the day in Practice 4.
CLICK HERE for Speedcafe.com’s Practice 4 report and results
“We do a lot of street racing in IndyCar but the big thing here is getting used to these big kerbs,” said Hinchcliffe of adapting to the circuit.
“I looked at the kerbs during the track walk and got really nervous. If I touched a kerb like that in my car I’d probably break my back and write the car off!
“It’s definitely been an experience learning what a V8 Supercar is capable of and the team has done a great job preparing me.
“Michael is obviously a great team-mate. I learned a lot on the track walk with him yesterday.
“It’s a unique place and it’s fun to finally get here and get to learn it.
“It’s not what you know, it’s who you know, and Michael is why I’m up here today.”
Having never raced a touring car before in his mainly open-wheel career, Hinchcliffe praised the Garry Rogers Motorsport crew for helping his transition.
“I drove a Mazda RX8 once, which is pretty similar,” he joked.
“I’ve not really driven anything like this. I’ve never driven a right-hand drive car, never been on the track, so it’s a day of firsts in a lot of ways.
“But it’s not the first time the team has had an international guy step in and they knew what questions I was going to ask before I even asked them.
“It was therefore very easy for me to just slip into it. Hopefully we can just build on this for the rest of the weekend.”
Caruso praised his co-driver’s efforts and is optimistic of putting in a strong performance in tomorrow morning’s qualifying session.
“We were really happy with how James has adapted over the day, and even out at Queensland Raceway (at the pre-event test on Wednesday he did a really good job,” he said.
“It’s a good start to the weekend. It’s nice to be fastest because my engineer and I have been working really hard on our car.
“I guess our car is a little bit different to the #33 because I like a fair few things different to what Alex (Premat) has liked and Greg (Ritter) has only stepped into the car this weekend.
“This is a good starting point for our weekend ahead of qualifying tomorrow.”
The #33 Greg Ritter/James Taylor car ended the day 12th on the combined result of the four session, with Ritter having ended Practice 1 second fastest.
See below for Speedcafe.com’s Armor All Gold Coast 600 Race Guide