James Hinchcliffe

James Hinchcliffe says he learns something every time he gets to get behind the wheel of his Verizon IndyCar Series car.

Because of that, he’s been relishing his role as one of the two drivers tabbed by Honda to conduct manufacturer aero kit testing for the car that will debut in the 2018 Verizon IndyCar Series season.

Thursday’s test at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway was Hinchcliffe’s latest learning opportunity and the first test of the new car at Indianapolis since it made its public debut there in July.

CLICK IT: 2018 Indy car Testing at Indianapolis

“On ovals, it’s been such a smooth transition (from the previous car),” said Hinchcliffe, who won the pole for the 100th Indianapolis 500 in 2016. “INDYCAR has done such a good job getting the balance right and getting the downforce level correct, that for us it’s just a matter of finding out what this car likes and what makes it tick.”

James HinchcliffeHinchcliffe along with Scott Dixon of Chip Ganassi Racing were meant to spend a full day of testing on the famed 2.5-mile oval. But cool morning temperatures kept the pair off of the track until just after noon. Still the drivers were able to run productive laps until 6 p.m, with each logging more than 130 laps for the day, according to information provided by Honda.

“It’s just about trying to find that happy medium,” Dixon said. “We’ve lost a lot of downforce (from the old car), but I think biggest thing for us is that the weight distribution is moved forward and there’s a lot more weight on the front tires. In traffic, it was more difficult, but that’s standard. When we come back here next May, we’ll know how to make it work mechanically, and it will be very good. But for the first go and working with James, it was all very smooth.”

While most of day was spent running individually, the drivers ran a little in tandem to simulate running in traffic.

“Scott and I got to run nose-to-tail a little bit, not a ton, and there’s work to do there, but first impressions are really good,” Hinchcliffe said.

“One of the big things we’re finding with this car is the rate which it is able to close up on the car in front is much faster. I know we have a ton of passing the racing has been great with the old kit and, but that’s because he had the cars so good that we could drive into a corner half a car length off the car in front.

“I feel like (this car) will be a different look. (Racing) will look more like it did in the early 90s. You may have more room (between cars) in the corners, but the hole that’s punched in front will be bigger. That’s going to lead to more passing, and safer passing too. You’ll be able to set up passes better and set up more traditional passing. It will be a much better racing car and I think it will be a little bit more forgiving for (the drivers) so it will be safer. It really does check all the boxes.”