Honda Canada and IndyCar race winner James Hinchcliffe announced at the Canadian International Auto Show the formation of a one year partnership that will see ‘Hinch’ working with the brand to promote Honda across Canada.
Hinchcliffe, entering his fourth season as an IndyCar racer and third competing for Andretti Autosport, will feature in various Honda product advertising and promotions throughout the course of 2014.
The Oakville native followed up the announcement with some further thoughts of his own on his relationship with Honda and the forthcoming IndyCar season:
Q: You first raced in IndyCar using a Honda power unit on your way to collecting ‘Rookie of the Year’ honours in 2011 – are you being reunited with an old friend in some ways?
James Hinchcliffe (JH): “In a lot of ways, yeah! Many of the same people within the company that I worked with in 2011 are still there, so it feels like a bit of a homecoming. I’m excited to be able to continue that relationship and I really hope they feel the same about working with me again.”
Q: Your relationship with Honda Canada will see you directly involved in many of the brand’s promotional efforts in your home country – what are you keen to bring to the table to meet their goals?
JH: “Honda Canada has always been great at promotion. I think using me and the tie-in to IndyCar can really help show people that these cars have a lot of the same traits we look for in our race cars; performance, reliability, fuel economy, safety and style.”
Q: You’ll be featured in some of their advertising campaigns! What’s the reaction you get from people seeing you on TV or on billboards? Do you ever get freaked out sitting at home then suddenly you’re on TV looking at yourself?
JH: “It’s definitely weird seeing yourself on TV, especially in a commercial or anything other than an interview! The most common reaction from people - mainly my friends - is something along the lines of “will you please get off my TV so I can go about watching my shows.” I’m constantly apologizing!”
Q: It’s fitting that Honda Canada is the lead sponsor of your home IndyCar event, Honda Indy Toronto – once again a double-header affair in 2014. Does this increase the pressure to get the ‘home’ victory or does it simply make it a sweeter affair if it all comes together on the weekend?
JH: “The last thing I need is MORE pressure in Toronto! But, no, I think it’s great. It makes me even more excited about the race, and for sure it will make me busier during the week. But like you said, it would make a strong result that much better.”
Q: Honda has an impressive array of vehicles – what are we going to see you driving over the next 12 months and just how much of a ‘car guy’ are you really?
JH: “I’m a big car guy! When I was younger - and by that I mean when I was an unemployed racing driver - I had more free time and probably knew more car facts than I do now, but I think as I matured (got a job) I appreciate cars more now. It’s tough to choose from the line up! I really like the Fit, but I’ve also been bombing around in a Pilot for the last week and that’s really grown on me!”
Q: So you’re running a new engine and new sponsor colours in 2014 with the #27 Andretti Autosport entry backed by United Fiber & Data. Has anything else changed in front of, or behind the scenes that you care to share?
JH: “I’m thinking I might even change underwear this season! And that’s not all! I also have a new engineering staff this year. Craig Hampson has taken an R&D role within the team, which will be great for us, and I’ve now got Nathan O’Rourke heading the think tank on the #27 car. It’s been an easy transition so far in testing which makes me confident for the season. And seriously, don’t worry, I change my underwear often.”
Q: You’ve been cramming in a few hometown media activities lately. What’s the secret to being a natural on TV and radio and if you could pick just one TV show to co-host or be a guest on, what would it be and why?
JH: “The secret is to forget that you’re on TV and just have a casual chat with whomever it is that has the unfortunate luck of being on a show with me! I’ve had a blast co-hosting a few shows this past week, but if I had to choose, that’s tough. I want to say Top Gear, because Clarkson is kind of my hero. However, it’s not really outside my comfort zone, if you get what I mean.
“I’d love to host ‘Whose Line Is It Anyway?’ I watched it all the time as a kid and I got a chance to meet Colin Mochrie last year on OTR and the show just started up again! Those guys are hilarious!”
The 2014 IndyCar Series kicks off on Sunday 30th March with Round 1 hosted in St Petersburg, Florida.