In the IMSA Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge in 2014, few drivers have had a better time of it so far as Trent Hindman, an 18-year old prodigy who shares the No. 46 BMW M3 for Fall-Line Motorsports with TUSC regular John Edwards. In the first three races of 2014, the duo won at Laguna Seca and finished second at both Daytona and Sebring. Those results were enough to give the duo a 22 point lead in the Grand Sport (GS) standings (in IMSA, a win is worth 35 points) headed into Lime Rock.
Hindman is relatively inexperienced in full-bodied race cars, having only made the switch from open wheeled racers just last year. However, he quickly adjusted to the much heavier, “beastly” equipment. Before the 2.5 hour GS race at Lime Rock Park in late May, Hindman sat down with our own Phil Allaway to talk about working with Fall-Line Motorsports, his learning experience in full-bodied race cars, and more.
Just prior to the interview taking place, Phil watched Hindman and teammate John Edwards practicing their driver changes in the paddock.
Phil Allaway, Frontstretch.com: We’ll start with the driver change practice that I just watched here. You and teammate John Edwards just spent ten minutes practicing for what will be one very important driver change. How fast are those changes typically for you?
Trent Hindman, No. 46 Trim-Tex BMW M3: They’re incredibly quick. I don’t want to give away the actual number, but we can get them done very quickly. The BMW typically is a difficult car to do the driver changes in because everything’s so tight inside. However, we can get it done. We don’t need an assistant for our driver changes, so me and John just get it done ourselves.
This weekend’s a little bit different than normal because usually, I’m the one that’s getting out and John’s the one that’s getting in. This weekend, it’s a role reversal. I’m the one that’s getting in and he’s the one getting out. We’ve been practicing a little bit more for that. Overall, we’re very happy about how it’s looking, but you really don’t know how good you are until you have to do it in the heat of the moment.
Allaway: Any reason why the roles were swapped for [Lime Rock]?
Hindman: It’s just part of driver development, I guess, for my end. It’s about time that I start finishing some races. There was a big team discussion in order to decide which races that I would finish throughout the year, Lime Rock being the first one. We feel that it’s a good fit because I’ve been here a lot, and both John and I have driven here a lot. Just the experience level, the way the track is, everything like that. It just made sense for me to finish here for the first time this year. We’re very happy with how things are headed, but it was definitely a team decision.
Allaway: Was the decision made this past week, or before the season started?
Hindman: It was considered a couple of months ago. We were already discussing about what races I could possibly finish even before we got to Daytona for the test [in January]. So, we’ve been working on it for quite a while. I think we have a very good plan.
Allaway: You’ve only been racing full-bodied race cars for a shade over a year, transitioning from open-wheeled cars like USF2000. It’s a substantial difference. Can you talk about your transition and how you had to adjust?
Hindman: At the end of the day, it’s still a race car. It still has a steering wheel and pedals and everything, but on a more complicated note, it’s two completely different beasts. These big touring cars are always moving around; they’re quite unstable. My education through open wheel has prepared me to get in this Fall-Line M3 and really make a good showing, but they’re two completely different beasts. It’s hard to compare, but it’s still a race car. You have to take it out on the track and flog the thing.
Allaway: Since New Jersey Motorsports Park is no longer on the schedule, Lime Rock Park is what amounts to your home track. Any extra pressure racing close to home.
Hindman: It’s still a 2.5 hour drive from where I’m at in New Jersey, but it is considered to be my home race. Of course, I want to come out here and make a good showing. We’ve got a lot of our partners here and their families. A lot of my close friends are here, so I want to do well for myself, but also put on a good show.
Allaway: Since we’re so close to your hometown, do you have more experience here than at other tracks?
Hindman: Absolutely. I’ve done a lot of running here throughout all my years in Skip Barber racing. I did the Continental [Tire Sports Car Challenge] race here last year, and I’ve done some testing up here in other cars as well. It is my home track and I know it well. I have a lot of laps around here, but I’m still always learning stuff just like any other guy. There are still plenty of things that have to be done in the 2.5 hours.
Allaway: You and teammate John Edwards have had a very convincing start to the season. You’re coming off of a victory at Laguna Seca and seconds at Daytona and Sebring. It’s almost as good a start as you can get. It almost looks easy at times, but it never is, right?
Hindman: Oh, no. It’s very difficult. Me and John are very lucky that we’re able to drive these Fall-Line M3’s and all these guys work really, really hard back at the shop getting these things prepared for the race weekends. We are incredibly lucky to be in such a good race car. The M3 might not be the outright quickest, but we feel like it’s the most reliable car; we feel like it’s going to be the best over the race [distance] and definitely get us home. That has every bit to do with the car as it does the team.
Allaway: Is the M3 mainly a neutral-handling car?
Hindman: Yeah, absolutely. Being as this car is so close to the stock car, BMW has taken what they’ve learned over the years…and our car is what it culminates in, the E92 M3. Being that this car is already five years old and still going strong, it just goes to show the quality and the ability of the engineers over in Germany.
Allaway: I guess they’re eventually going to replace the car here in the states with the new M4. The street cars are scheduled to be out here soon.
Hindman: Yeah, the North American release is in June, but I’m not sure when the race car will be online. We’re going to have to wait a little while until everything’s built and ready to go for us. Regardless, I’m very excited about what the finished product’s going to be. Note: The official release date for the new BMW M4 Coupe was June 21st, last Saturday.
Allaway: With that release schedule, it’s doubtful that we’ll see one in the GS class before the end of the season, at best.
Hindman: Yeah, it’s tough. The release schedule being in June, it’s not far away, but it takes a long time to engineer and build the race car from the ground up. There’s a lot of homework that needs to be done, but I have no doubts that these guys will be able to get something put together by 2015.
Allaway: Speaking of the future, you recently got a chance to test the Audi R8 LMS. Where was that test and how was it?
Hindman: We had the test at Autobahn Country Club just outside of Chicago. It’s about an hour away from the Fall-Line Motorsports shop, so it made sense to go there.[The R8] is a beautiful car to drive. It’s very difficult, very powerful. It has a ton of grip, the brakes are incredible. I could go on for days about it, but it was definitely a learning experience for me to be able to drive such a thing like that. Being able to drive the R8 is just going to help me in the M3 here, so I was very happy that I was able to do it. I’m very thankful to everyone at Fall-Line for giving me the chance. Hopefully, I’ll be in it at some point, perhaps in one of these long distance races.
Allaway: Maybe Petit le Mans in October?
Hindman: I’m working on it. We’ll find out later.
Allaway: Ultimately, how do you see yourself progressing in IMSA? Full-time in TUSC in a year or so?
Hindman: Well, I don’t know. It’s very difficult to plan ahead for the future because this is motorsport. You never know what’s going to happen. For now, my main focus is this GS program. We’re in a great position now and I think we have a really good shot at winning the championship. That’s my main focus.
But, for where I’d like to go, I feel like the natural progression would be going into the Fall-Line R8. But, you never know what’s going to happen. You never know where you’re going to end up. It’s another one of those things where you have to play it by ear and see what happens.
Allaway: For this year, you have John Edwards as a teammate as opposed to Charles Espenlaub from last year. What’s it like having Edwards as your co-driver?
Hindman: John and Charles are two very different drivers. Either one of them can get the job done when they need to get it done. That absolutely helps my education as a driver. It helps our whole team in development and everything.
Working with Charles last year was a great learning experience for me and I’m continuing to learn with John this year.
Allaway: It’s basically like a mentorship?
Hindman: In a way, yes. But, we’re also very close to each other, speed-wise and from what we like in the car. I think that me and John are a very good pairing.
Allaway: Racing is often a family sport at the very beginning. How did you first get into racing in New Jersey?
Hindman: A long, long time ago, my father raced boats. When I was born, he ended up stopping that. I guess racing was in my blood from the very start.
I first started out riding dirt bikes, just around my front lawn at home. Did a couple of things at a track not too far away from where I lived in Chatsworth. A small, small cluster of trails and tracks in the middle of the Pine Barrens. I don’t even know if it’s around anymore. My mom ended up thinking that motocross was a little bit too unsafe, so karting was the alternative. I ended up getting into that when I was around eight years old. After that, I just worked my way up through karting, Skip Barber; a couple of the lower open wheeled ranks. Made the switch to sports car racing in 2013, and now I find myself here.
Allaway: When you’re not at the track racing the M3, what do you do in your spare time?
Hindman: It’s hard to say since we’re always doing things to work on this M3. Racing’s a full-time job, but to get away from it, especially this time of year, since I live so close to the shore that I’m always at the beach. I have a nice surfboard that I like to go out on every now and then.
I also like to enjoy time at home with my friends and family and just relax because these races come up quick. After one race, you’re so beat up that all you can do is really relax and try to refocus for the next one.
Allaway: It’s literally a couple of days of recovery from bruises and getting thrown around in the car?
Hindman: It’s not that bad. John and I both have a pretty rigorous training program that we go through to avoid that soreness and bruising. We’re still pretty fresh when we get out of the car, but nonetheless, it’s still a race car. They’re still big, 3000 pound beasts that we got to wheel around the race track for 2.5 hours. It’s not an easy job, but we enjoy doing it.
At Lime Rock, a late afternoon rain shower wiped out qualifying and resulted in John Edwards starting the No. 46 on the pole. Edwards proceeded to drive away from the field for the entire first segment of the race. It looked like Fall-Line Motorsports was in a good position to take the win.
However, pit strategy ultimately decided the race. A full-course yellow for a spin by Jason Montgomery’s Chevrolet Camaro right at the edge of the pit window caused a split pit strategy. Hindman did not bring in the No. 46 at the first possible opportunity for tires and fuel. Teams like Rum Bum Racing’s No. 13 Porsche and the No. 77 Subaru from Compass360 Racing did choose to stop on the first lap the pits were open. Those teams that pitted first ended up at the front for the restart and could not be caught.
Hindman ended up finishing a disappointing fourth, 19 seconds off of the leaders. At Kansas, all the good luck that the team had to start the season came crashing down. Despite the No. 46 once again topping the charts in practice, the race brought issues under the hood. The team fought the power issues to finish 16th after starting from pole. Also, Edwards failed to log the minimum drive time in the car in order to receive points, leaving Hindman in sole possession of the points lead.
Watkins Glen saw Edwards have contact with the No. 9 Stevenson Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro Z/28.R driven by Andy Lally. The contact eventually resulted in a cut left rear tire and suspension issues that dropped the No. 46 to a 19th-place finish in class (42nd overall). As a result, the 25-point lead Hindman had after Lime Rock is gone. Now, the 18-year old is tied in the standings with Rum Bum Racing’s Matt Plumb, the defending champion. Hindman will have his work cut out for him to stay at the front of the pack.
The next race for the IMSA Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge is at Canadian Tire Motorsports Park (formerly Mosport International Raceway) in Bowmanville, Ontario. The race will be streamed live at IMSA.com and FansChoice.tv on July 12th starting at 1:15pm EDT. The highlighted TV broadcast will air Sunday, July 20th on FOX Sports 1 at 10:00am EDT in a two-hour timeslot.