MEET THE NEW MAYOR
delayed – a setback that Hinchcliffe now
believes was a blessing in disguise.
“At the time I was furious,” he admits.
“But had that surgery taken place on
schedule, there would have been more
of a push to try and get into shape for
Sonoma. And looking back on it now, that
would have been such a mistake.
“By the time I did finally get back into
the car at Road America, I was probably
at 90 to 95 percent of where I was before
the accident. And that’s maybe 85 percent
of where I eventually ended up getting to
– and where I am now – because there’s no
doubt I pushed myself to an even higher
level of fitness than before the wreck. You
take a driven, motivated guy and give him
nothing other than time in the gym, and
that’s what’s going to happen.”
The difference between the Hinch of
then and the Hinch of now has not gone
unnoticed by the team, either. “He’s
definitely more focused,” says crew chief
Ron Catt. “He’s in much better shape than
he was – and he was in good shape before.
He’s come back more than 100 percent.”
Better fitness and more focus? That’s a
precious thing for a racecar driver to have
– even if Hinchcliffe would have preferred
some other means of acquiring it...
PitFit’s Jim Leo has helped many
drivers recover from serious accidents,
from the broken hip suffered by Dario
Franchitti at Homestead in 2000, to
the spinal fractures that Will Power
sustained at Sonoma in ’09. “But,”
he offers, “I’ve never been involved in
anything as extensive, with the degree
of rehabilitation, as James’s crash.”
Hinchcliffe’s rehab plan was
developed in close consultation with
Dr Timothy Pohlman, who oversaw his
medical recovery. Tiny increases in the
intensity and variety of workouts that
Hinchcliffe could perform came only
after Pohlman gave the green light.
“Gradually we were allowed to do
very light movements,” Leo recalls.
As Hinchcliffe’s condition improved,
his workload was ramped up to help
him prepare for a return to driving at
IndyCar’s Road America test on
Sept. 28, 2015. It set into motion an
expansion of his training regime that
continues to this day.
“He’s better now than he was
before the crash,” Leo says. “We had
a schedule, but he was so motivated
and he wanted to do things that he’d
never really tapped into.
“I think that was really a wake-up
call that he hadn’t really put that
effort in before, and now that he’d
been given that gift of being allowed
to get back into his racecar, he was
not going to let it pass him by.”
(TOP) James Hinchcliffe works out at PitFit.
(ABOVE) His return to the cockpit at a
Road America test was emotional for all.
GETTING RACE FIT
felt like I missed anything. I never felt that
I was ‘coming back’ to the team. The only
thing I had to come back to was driving.”
That moment came at a test at Road
America just four months after the crash.
But there was a brief window during
which he was dangled the carrot of all
carrots, when it seemed that he might
be fit enough to take part in the season
finale at Sonoma in August. The plan was
derailed when a followup surgery was
would have helped, but at the same time
I was still going to the shop regularly;
I was still part of the post-race debriefs
back at the shop with Ryan [Briscoe] and
with [teammate] James [Jakes],” he says.
“I was travelling to races as often as
possible and standing on the pit stand,
and in some ways I probably learned
more and built a better rapport than I
could have behind the wheel. But I never
2016 podium came
on the Indy road
course, and was
followed by another
in his home event
on the streets of
He added an oval
to the list at Texas
“When I got back into the
car at Road America, I was
at 90 to 95 percent of where
I was before the accident”