Oakville native James Hinchcliffe said he is disappointed he didn’t land an optimal starting position for Sunday’s Honda Indy race, calling the course “tricky.”

As the only Canadian driver competing at Exhibition Place, Hinchcliffe is a fan favourite.

Federal Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer was among those cheering him on during Saturday’s qualifying race.

“Hoping he can win it on home soil and hoping I can see some shaking and some baking as well. Some ‘shake and bake,” Scheer said before touring the pits.

The qualification races involved a total of 22 drivers, who compete in up to four races vying for a prime pole position.

“The track is so slippery. It’s so bumpy,” said Hinchcliffe. “You can go and try to take that couple extra inches, but you know — if the car hits a bump in the road, you can end up in the wall.”

Hinchcliffe didn’t make it past the first qualifying round Saturday afternoon, which means he won’t have an optimal starting position for Sunday’s race.

“Obviously, a bit disappointed, we were obviously hoping we were going to be in the top half of the group there,” he said.

But Hinchcliffe remains optimistic, saying that his position gives him more strategic leeway.

“I think what it affords you is the opportunity to be a little bit riskier on strategy,” he said. “If you do the same thing as the leaders you probably aren’t going to make too much progress, but we can roll the dice a little bit, maybe try to be a bit more adventurous.”

Thousands of fans gather at Exhibition Place for Honda Indy

Some fans say they have come to the Honda Indy to watch Hinchcliffe, and the other Indy car racers, for decades now.

“We’ve been coming for 22 years, this is our annual father-daughter weekend,” said Carrie Siegel.

Her father, Wally Kurczak, travels more than 500 kilometres every year to take in the races with his daughter.

“I live in the Sault, and that’s the only way she could get me to Toronto, is to get me to the races.”

Hinchcliffe starts 14th in Sunday’s Honda Indy Toronto. He has had two third-place finishes over the last four years and is hoping to be the first Canadian to land on the podium since Paul Tracy in 2003.