Pfaff Motorsports' No. 9 McLaren driven by James Hinchcliffe, Alexander Rossi, Oliver Jarvis and Marvin Kirchhofer. (Robby Noonan Photo)

A ‘Lighter Weekend’ At The Rolex Ahead For Hinchcliffe 

James Hinchcliffe will have a different perspective than what he’s become accustomed during this weekend’s Rolex 24 At Daytona. 

Instead of his typical post as a television analyst for NBC Sports, the driver-turned broadcaster is back behind the wheel for the famed twice-around-the-clock event at Florida’s Daytona Int’l Speedway for the first time in seven years.

While the physical demands of wheeling a race car at the hallowed grounds of Daytona for hours on end can be grueling, Hinchcliffe joked his first Rolex as an analyst was a more exhausting experience. 

“I was joking with the NBC guys that this will be less work than the first Rolex 24 I called because they kept me on air for 17-and-a-half hours,” Hinchcliffe told SPEED SPORT. “So I’m looking forward to a lighter weekend, you know?”

Back in the comforts of a race car at the 3.65-mile road course, the six-time NTT IndyCar Series winner is chasing his first winner’s watch with Canadian-based Pfaff Motorsports in a McLaren 720s GT3 Evo alongside current IndyCar Series driver Alexander Rossi, Oliver Jarvis and Marvin Kirchhofer.

Stepping away from IndyCar at the end of the 2021 season, Hinchcliffe has kept his options open the last few seasons with the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Series teams. 

James Hinchcliffe has joined NBC Sports as an analyst and NTT IndyCar Series broadcast team. (IndyCar Photo)
James Hinchcliffe. (IndyCar Photo)

This season, a deal with Pfaff came together after multiple years of discussions as the team switched from a Porsche to McLaren at the conclusion of 2023. 

“We’ve been in conversation with Steve Bortolotti and Chris Pfaff for a few years now about trying to make it happen,” Hinchcliffe began. “I think a big part of it was the manufacturer’s switch for them, kind of allowed them a little more freedom to make some calls on things.

“We have a mutual partner and Canadian Tire who really wanted to see us working together, on track and off. So it was just sort of everything coming together at the right time.”

Along with the Rolex 24, the 37-year-old Canadian will sport the famed Pfaff plaid colors in the remaining endurance races on the IMSA schedule. 

With the team’s switch to McLaren, it’s been a crash course getting to the Daytona high banks as the organization didn’t lay eyes on their 720s GT3 until last month. 

“The Pfaff crew deserve a tremendous amount of credit because this car didn’t show up until mid December,” Hinchcliffe explained. “The amount of prep that goes into one of these cars, it’s the same as what a team does in IndyCar for the (Indianapolis) 500. 

“You start working on those cars in October for a race in May. So, you can imagine how much of a thrash it was to only get this thing in December. 

“It’s a brand new manufacturer for them as we said, so they’re still learning a lot about how the car works, setups and things like that.”

Despite the uphill battle, the team unloaded with pace at last week’s Roar Before the 24 tune-up as it qualified sixth out of 13 GTD PRO entries. 

“When you take into account everything that the team has been working through, incredibly impressed with how the Roar went,” Hinchcliffe said. “We turned a lot of laps. I think reliability was something better than we expected. 

“I’m learning a lot from my teammates. I’m still getting up to speed a little bit with driving a car with a roof and the steering wheel on one side of the car and things like that. 

“But, it’s been going really well so far.”

Hinchcliffe will look to kick off the year strong as the Rolex 24 takes the green flag at 1:30 p.m. ET on Saturday.