The long friendship between Robert Wickens and James Hinchcliffe has been well documented this season – and now they’ve had the chance to share the Schmidt Peterson Motorsports No. 5 Honda at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Wickens ran the first stage of his Indy 500 Rookie Orientation Program – in which he had to run 10 laps between 205-210mph – but mechanical issues forced SPM scrambling to bring out Hinchcliffe’s car so Wickens could complete his program.
“It was a tricky morning. We had a gearbox issue on my car after the first phase of the orientation,” Wickens explained. “We had to scramble a little bit to get James’ car ready because it wasn’t scheduled to be going on track, so we had to do some quick fixes and get everything ready to go. It wasn’t ideal because we didn’t really do a seat fit for me in his car.
“Apart from the seat going in, everything was more ‘get on with it, get the orientation done.’ We were actually a little pressed for time to get all the phases through in the time allocation we had. The guys worked hard to get the No. 5 car ready.
Wickens clearly approved of his first experience on the 2.5-mile track.
“I love it around here,” he gushed. “It was my first taste of Indianapolis. I love the oval. I ran the [road] course 12 years ago. It was good to do my first laps at the oval, full throttle laps, flat laps. It was very special. Day Zero for us. Looking forward to getting May started. I think it’s going to be a pretty special place when there are 33 other cars on lap.”
The No. 5 Honda, in which Hinchcliffe ran 95 laps in Monday’s Open Test with a fast circuit at 221.666mph, wasn’t done for the day. Jay Howard jumped in and completed his refresher course later Tuesday afternoon.
Given Hinchcliffe’s recent admission, hopefully the seat wasn’t too warm.