Igor Sushko - Racing and Beyond, featuring Super GT and formula racing

Follow Igor Sushko's career as a racecar driver at the world stage. In 2006, Igor raced in the first ever Nissan Skyline GT-R to compete in a professional racing series in North America. In 2007, Igor competed in two series in Japan: Super Taikyu with Nissan Fairlady Z and Formula Challenge Japan - a high-downforce light-weight formula car. In 2008, Igor continued development in the FCJ series and managed many podiums in Super Taikyu C-3 Nissan Fairlady Z for H.I.S. Travel and Okabe Jidosha. In 2010, he was with Team Taisan in Porsche 911 GT3R in SUPER GT GT300 in Japan, securing a pole position at the Suzuka Pokka round of SUPER GT. He was the architect of the technology innovation platform with OGT! Racing #90 Porsche 911 GT3 Cup in partnership with Freescale Semiconductor in 2012. In 2013, the Freescale Racing program moved up to SUPER GT with R35 NISSAN GT-R GT3.
イゴール・スシュコのレーシング・ドライバーとしての生活についてのウェブサイトです。2006年はイゴールはアメリカ初、日産スカイライン・GT-Rを権威のあるワールド・チャレンジ・GT・シリーズで参戦しました。2007年はS耐久・C-3・ニスモNissanフェアレディZとFormula Challenge Japan(フォーミュラ・チャレンジ・ジャパン)のシリーズでレースしました。 2008年度はまたFCJでレースドライバーとしての上達をしながらスーパー耐久C-3でH.I.S.旅行と岡部自動車と共にNissan Zで多数の表彰台を掴みました。 2010年はSuper GT GT300でTeam Taisan Porsche 911 GT3Rでレースしました。 2012年はOGT! Racing #90よりポルシェ・カレラ・カップでフリースケール・セミコンダクタと共に次世代技術開発に取り組み, 2013年はSUPER GTにて日産GT-R GT3でFreescale Racingとして技術開発を続きました。 応援よろしくお願いします!

Monday, November 13, 2006

The most incredible 14 days spent in Japan

Not having been back to Japan for the past eight years - from the time I was only 12, I had one of the best two weeks of my life!
My family originally moved to Kyoto in 1992, when I was six years old. We spent a year there, and I had the horrifying experience of not only going to school for the first time, but going to school as the only foreigner in the class, without knowing a single word of the country's language.
Igor Sushko growing up in Japan.

After the initial year of trauma, my father got a job in Tsukuba city nearby Tokyo, at the home of the infamous Tsukuba Circuit. We ended up spending five years there, at which point we relocated to the United States, where I have lived since. As I learned the language and began assimilating into the culture, I fell in love with the country of the rising sun, and still to this day consider it my real home. Those are the days when I fell in love with Nissan and especially the Skyline GT-R - the Godzilla's intimidating front fascia bluntly stating "I will kick your ass." Ironically, although I was only about 40 minutes from what has become a world-renown test track, I never heard of it while living next to it for five years. You can imagine the shock when I first heard about the Tsukuba Circuit in the United States.
Igor Sushko growing up in Japan.

Igor Sushko growing up in Japan.

My trip was from the 12th through 26th of July and it was filled with fascinating events on nearly a daily basis, some of which I unfortunately cannot release here, but you can bet that everything for which I received permission to disclose is right here.
On the 12th, I arrived at Narita Airport at around 4 p.m. local time, and was feeling quite giddy - I got a cheap ticket through American Airlines in coach, yet four seats were open next to me in a row, so I slept through most of the 12-hour flight, successfully eliminating any fatigue due to the eight-hour time difference between the two countries.


I set out on Narita Express toward Tokyo, where to my complete astonishment, 11 of my 5/6th grade elementary school classmates assembled for an impromptu eight-year reunion. The fact that legal drinking age in Japan is 20 certainly made the night eventful. An interesting note here: Japan's public transit system is excellent in metropolitans, and so most people use the trains to move around. However, every night, the trains, even in Tokyo, stop at around midnight, and do not start back up until 5 a.m. You can guess which time we chose to dismantle the dozen-people fiesta.


Next day, after sleeping for an hour at a friends' house while he went to take an exam in college, I flew to Osaka with Mr. Tamura Hiroshi. Near the evening, I began to show bags below my eyes, but that did not stop us from having fun - after a nice dinner with a few of Mr. Tamura's friends at C.D. Takoh, featuring excellent European cuisine in the heart of Osaka, we went to Mr. Yamasaki Norihito's tuning shop, PX Yamasaki Engineering. His personal car is an uber-fast NSX, with a 3" front lip, canards, a real race engine, carbon bodywork, and much more. This is the real representative of Japanese tuner cars that should be at the heart of movies like Fast and the Furious, if they were to do it right. This is the crew that you hear about going down Wangan and other freeways around Japan, although many of the original racers are long retired.


Next morning, July 14th, Mr. Tamura and I took a short train ride from Osaka to Kyoto, where my family's close friend, Mrs. Ueba, welcomed us. The Ueba family lived next door to us when my family moved to Kyoto back in 1992. Their children are the same age as my brother and I, so we used to go to school together and were all involved in various activities. What nostalgia that was… after we went to a temple nearby and I got my dose of enlightenment, we dropped by my former elementary school and also the house where we had lived at the time. Now the lot was all grass with no house in its place. In the evening, we got to all have dinner with my first grade teacher, and then I went out downtown with two of my former classmates.

Igor Sushko with the Ueba family.

The next day, we did more nostalgic sightseeing and then traveled to Kanazawa - a city on the Japanese Sea side, nearly directly west of Tokyo. Surprisingly, I had a few more friends from my Tsukuba days attending college in the city, and so we caught up on more of the old times. A great restaurant in downtown Kanazawa called St. Louis was our setting of trying out various interesting cocktails and drinking Japanese whiskey. God - I love the drinking age of 20 in Japan. St. Louis is famous for having won some Japanese national cocktail competitions and has also appeared on the world circuit for such expertise.


On the 17th, we drove back to Tokyo, which took about eight hours, and I was amazed at how green Japan really is. It is simply fascinating to consider how they manage to have so many forests and rice fields on the flat portions of the land: ¾ of the Japan territory is uninhabitable mountainous area (after all, in simple terms, the entire country is a piece of mountain stuck out of the ocean), and their population is over 120 million. Imagine 40% of the American population living on 20% of Texas.


On the way back to Tokyo, we stopped by the Prince Skyline Museum in Nagano prefecture. This is a private museum with some extraordinary vehicles, including the infamous "Stealth" - the R34 GT-R test mule for nuburgring that looks like an R33, a few Group A cars, and of course all of the Skyline generations. The museum is actually located inside a public park and has incredible scenery. There are many events organized by the museum for the Skyline owners year round, and we had just missed a big one by a week or so when we went there.

Mr. Tamura with a Nissan V12 race engine

Mr. Tamura and Igor Sushko at the Prince Skyline Museum next to a Group A R32 Nissan Skyline GT-R

The next day is when all the fun began - the work. I attempted to prepare a summary out of the documents I had on my laptop to give to NISMO, more for their curiosity than anything else, as we don't have any official relationship other than being a NISMO client who had purchased a race GT-R engine. However, my laptop had no battery and I could not plug it in to charge, as I did not have a US-to-Japan adapter. I searched frantically at the nearby electronics stores, and they all seemed to have Europe-to-Japan and vice versa, but nothing for America. I finally made a call to my friend, who thought that I was either kidding or was just dropped on my head, and he told me that I do not need any type of adapter between US and Japan, since the outlets are identical in shape and the difference in voltage is minor enough to where the black heavy power supply unit that is a part of all laptop charging systems will do the job of normalizing the slight difference in voltage. I did not have time to feel stupid immediately at that point as I had a report to prepare, but after I was done, I managed to rationalize my train of thought to myself. When I was little, I remember my family using the adapters, but that was indeed between Europe and Japan, as I then thought about it. Around that time, I was still very much blonde (my hair has darkened over the years to be disrespectfully referred to as "brown" on my driver's license), and I recall the traumatizing experience of my first day at school in Kyoto. It was my first ever day in any school - but this one was better as I knew no language and I was the only blonde-blue-eyed kid in the class. The other kids' reaction to my curious look was one that resulted in pure trauma for myself, which I have only recently been able to accept and resolve within: they pulled out my blonde hair as a further sample of investigation - multiple kids, all at once…. But I digress.


The NISMO headquarters in Tokyo, Japan.

With my report ready I traveled to NISMO the next day. There, I presented the information, left some of our race car's posters, and was also given a small tour of their facility. Then, to my bewilderment, I was afforded a ride in a ____________ to Nissan Technical Center in Atsugi, nearby Tokyo. This is an entire Nissan city, with over 15,000 employees spread out over an enormous campus of buildings in the middle of a mountain range, with the only access being by a long tunnel through the middle of a mountain. There, I was told I would attend a small meeting regarding the mindset of the American youth, as I myself am one of 'em. However, that is not exactly how it went down. I arrived in an enormous room with around 30 Nissan product planners, with a Power Point presentation setup up in front about me, and a table at the very front that had my name on it. After I overcame my stage fright and a small heart attack, I managed to calm myself down and the impromptu speech seemed to go really well, with various questions being asked by the product planners throughout; and I was able to walk away an hour and a half later with a slight sense of pride. I am not usually the one to speak in front of people, but somehow, speaking in Japanese made it much easier for me. This was a truly wonderful day. I recall dreaming about working with Nissan, thinking what a great company it is, and wished that some day I could be in the midst of it all, to be a player in this humongous game that is the automotive industry. Well, dreams do come true.


The Nissan Technical Center in Atsugi
Copyright © Nissan Motor CO. Ltd


Finally, on the 20th of July, I had my chance to go to my rightful home - Tsukuba city. Since my departure eight years ago, a new train line has been built that goes straight from the Akihabara station in Tokyo to Tsukuba in 45 minutes. As I finally boarded Tsukuba Express after buying a ticket for about $20, I felt surreal. To be coming home, after a true adventure that has been the past eight years, it was hard to comprehend the reality I faced.


On some uneventful day, back in sixth grade, my parents told me that we would be moving to the United States… and I cried. I had no desire to move away from Japan, and especially Tsukuba city. After having lived in seven different houses in three different countries (Ukraine, Germany, and Japan), I was ready to call Tsukuba my hometown. But in hindsight, going to United States was a great move, for my horizons have been widened beyond my initial imagination of what our vast world encompasses. After Japan did some initial molding of my mind, America buried all that was Japanese in me, and created a top layer that is radically opposite of the Japanese mindset. It taught me to view the world as having infinite possibilities; it taught me that dreams can be achieved through perseverance. But, deep down, to this day, Japan, and especially Tsukuba, feels like home.


Igor Sushko on graduation day at Matsushiro elementary school in Tsukuba

The 45-minute ride seemed to take forever. My iPod died long ago and I forgot to bring the charger for it, and I had left some books I brought for exact such occasions in Tokyo. So, there I was, like a kid in grade school, staring through the window of the train, sitting on my knees on the seat. As the time dragged on, boring rice fields began to resemble civilization, and then I saw the word "Tsukuba" hugely carved out in a field, obviously intended for airplanes and train passengers. My excitement began to really build within, and I could not help but grin, and my grin slowly grew bigger the closer we got to my home. By the time I got off the train, I felt true ecstasy. One of my brother's classmates from the old times, Yuuichi, picked me up from the station and it only took us a few minutes on a major street to get back to our neighborhood. Ah, the smell, the view, it was all the same. We went to my elementary school, but all teachers had changed since my departure, and not a single person remained there that knew me. I brought my graduation album, but even that did not get me inside the school, to feel the great nostalgia I longed. Supposedly, even Japan is seeing its own share of wackos, who enter schools with malicious intent. I understood their protocol, but it still pissed me off. I thought that I belonged inside that school more than any of those teachers. We came to an agreement that I will drop by again when the principal is present, so he can approve my visit through the inside of the school.
Then, Yuuichi and I took some time to wander around the area. It seemed so tiny compared to my memories. What I remembered as a hike to one of my friend's houses was barely four blocks. For dinner, another one of my classmates, who grew up to be an incredibly gorgeous soon-to-be professional pianist, Moeko, joined us for dinner. In the evening, we assembled six people from our elementary school graduating class and socialized to a point of no return. Incredibly, all the girls from my class grew up to be very beautiful, and some, the type of gorgeous that you would only find in an ad on TV or a magazine. They all seemed to have 23-24 year old boyfriends, while they themselves are still only 20, a fact that made me feel protective of them. Who are these guys to be dating these girls that I had known since I was 10, I wondered to myself. After we left the bar, Yuuichi and I bought a bottle of vodka with grandiose plans of continuing the party at his house, but, unsurprisingly, that bottle never did get opened…


The next day, I had to quickly recover and put my work hat on - I was going to Sendai on Shinkansen to attend the Super GT (formerly JGTC) race at the Sugo circuit, where I had four interviews scheduled with the members of the NISMO JGTC team.


I got on a Tsukuba Express train from Tsukuba to Akihabara and took a regular JR train to the Tokyo train station and then boarded the Shinkansen to Sendai. I had the aisle seat, the middle was open, and by the window sat a well-suited businessman. Even though I may have grown up in Japan, America has given me the unique gift of being able to strike up a conversation with anyone, and so I did. We talked the entire train ride about subjects ranging from cars to snack food, and even about his kids, whose birthdays he had just missed as he was out of town. He got curious about the GT-R we're racing in the U.S., since one of his kids loves the GT-R; it's his dream car. I conveniently had a few "hero" cards in my backpack, so I handed one to him for his son. Well, that wasn't good enough - he whipped out a pen and asked me to autograph it. I am not usually one to contain the further expansion of my ego, so I went for it, writing his son a personal message about hard work and perseverance. At the end of the train ride, we exchanged business cards, and my eyes went a little wide when I read his (I already knew what mine said). He is an executive at a branch of a multi-billion-dollar snack/beverage corporation. Sounds great, I like friends.
As I got off the train, I called my hotel, "Library Hotel - Sendai," which is supposedly right by the train station. Outside was light rain and it was dark, and the front desk employee gave me directions toward the appropriate exit out of the train station, and as I remain on the phone with him, I realize that he took me to the wrong exit, but I am already outside drenched, facing the opposite side of town. I then went back inside and walked through the entire station to go out of the correct exit, and I got even wetter as I finally went the right way. It wasn't far. I checked in, and then felt hungry - I always get hungry around five times a day at the most inconvenient times. Before I go on though, I need to note that this hotel does not have a library, which is puzzling.


That same hotel clerk recommended a Chinese place next door that is open late, and I double confirmed this notion with him and the direction, of course, all with a light heart. As I walked in, the smell of good food inundated my senses, and I took a seat. Over at the next table, four of the typical Japanese "salary-men" in suits were drinking beer and eating ramen. Sendai is a historic city in Japan, so I struck up a conversation with them about it, and I am not the one to brag about my knowledge that I attained about Japan in elementary school, so I patiently listened through the general Japanese history that I already knew, with simplified explanations of events. It was good; they were having a good time. Then they got curious as everyone seemed throughout my trip as to why a white boy like me can speak Japanese and what am I doing wherever I am at the time, in this case in Sendai past midnight at a Chinese shack. I give them a quick introduction and they begin talking about Michael Krumm, the famous Super GT driver who races the GT500 NISMO 350Z, who I am set to interview at the race on Sunday. Michael Krumm used to race in Europe against Schumacher back when they were growing up, and is not only a great talent, but is very down-to-earth. I had met him at Sebring back in 2005, when he was testing a new Nissan race engine in a prototype chassis. So these guys mention Michael Krumm and his wife, Date Kimiko, the world-famous tennis player, who is from Sendai. This is one of those celebrity couples in Japan. And bear with me, as this all ties into the history of Sendai. When Tokugawa Ieyasu became Shogun of Japan, the Date samurai family owned the Sendai area, and supposedly, Date Kimiko possesses some of that royal blood. After my wonderful midnight dinner and quality conversation, I retired for the evening.


The next morning, I got up and scribbled some interview notes for the two that I had to do that day with the NISMO team. I caught a cab outside my hotel and directed him to go to the Sugo circuit, which is in the middle of the mountain range with no easy access. The cab driver, like all in Japan, was wearing white gloves, driving a specialty Toyota Crew - one of the choice cars for taxis in Japan. We struck up a conversation about cars, and he mentioned how he himself is a Nissan enthusiast and that he has a R32 Nissan Skyline GT-S, and you can imagine where the conversation led from there. I asked him to stop by on the way by a convenience store so I could buy some breakfast - I bought a few "Onigiri" which is rice with stuffing wrapped in seaweed. My choice stuffing was tuna-mayo. Ah! I could write a book about this: the food in Japan, no matter where you get it, is delicious, healthy, and cheap. I miss it. The drive was pretty long, nearly an hour. We got into the mountain roads nearby the track. The car in front was slowing us down. I assured the driver that we could go ahead and pass him. He took the meaning of that with some liberty, and not only did he pass him, as the road surface was slightly wet, he went on to drive like a … not a maniac, because he knew exactly what he was doing… he drove like a race car driver would if he wants to have some fun on the streets. As the car was rear-wheel-drive, he was losing his tail in the turns, some not so slow, but did it all with absolute precision. I can definitely say that he seemed like the most skilled taxi driver I have ever encountered.


I arrived at the Sugo circuit and proceeded to get my media pass for the event. On that day, I had two interviews scheduled: Mr. Matsuda, co-driver of the #23 350Z in GT500; and Mr. Iijima, the crew chief of the GT500 NISMO Team. This was Saturday, the qualifying day for the Sunday race. These interviews will hopefully offer our readers an insight into the world of motorsports in Japan. The first interview with the driver went just as planned. However, during the interview with the crew chief, we got cut off about two minutes into it as he got called to go see the sanctioning body for spilling a fluid in their pit. "How funny is that?!" I thought, as we've had such instances at our level of World Challenge racing, but I guess some things just don't change no matter how much money is in the program. In the end, we're all human. In a way, this incident reassured me that our team in America is more than all right - we're kicking butt! Ms. Kusagawa was directing my entire interview schedule for the two days, and I wish to thank her sincerely for taking the time to deal with the lowly me. She was very nice. When the interview with the crew chief came to an abrupt end, we figured we could go ahead and push up my schedule for the next day to this one, which meant I was going to interview the big man himself - the President of Nissan Motorsports International (NISMO) - Mr. Sanada. Boy, was this an interview and a half! We had 10 minutes scheduled per interview, and I guess they liked me so much that every single one went far beyond that time, especially this one. I spoke with the NISMO president for 28 whole minutes, and I got it on digital audio as proof to the skeptics out there, if it ever comes to that. I am very proud of this interview, and it is already live on Automotive Articles Magazine.


At some point around this time, I realized that I was beginning to forget English after having spent nearly two weeks in Japan and only speaking Japanese. I would get asked to teach someone a cool English word and I would not recall how to say it. I was also introduced to several NISMO team members, and had a blast. This was all an impossible-dream-come-true to me. I almost felt like I was accepted as one of their own. One person told me that when NISMO switched from racing the R34 Skyline GT-R to the Z33 350Z in GT500 in 2004, the aerodynamic shape of the Z allowed them to generate 20-30% more down force on the car.


After walking around the enormous paddock filled with dozens of teams, I found what I was looking for: The Bomex GT300 race team. Mr. Yamashita, the co-driver of the Honda NSX and a co-owner of Bomex, an aero parts manufacturer, had been to several racing and show events in the United States, and we were well acquainted through Mr. Yamada "Tarzan" Eiji. I had not seen Mr. Yamashita in a while but we were able to pick right back up and have a good time. Then his team's race queens appeared, and I really shined with my newly acquired Los Angeles-based "game," but all translated to Japanese of course. I got introduced to the co-driver, Mr. Suho, who had a large tattoo of their car number on his arm: 666. His eyes went a little wide when I noted this to him, and he told me that it was the other way around - that he likes that number and he picked it as their racecar number. He was cool. I have my doubts. They were nice enough to give me a ride in their team minivan back into town, as their hotel was near mine, but I quickly found that the only passengers in that minivan were the four race queens. I didn't mind. One of the girls kept bugging me because she wanted me to teach her how to pronounce "Coke please" in English, as you can probably imagine, it sounded to me like she was saying something else. She had trouble extending and rolling the "o" part of Coke. I tried; sometimes it's just out of your hands, and it's just fine.


The Super GT race start at the Sugo circuit in Sendai.
Copyright © NISMO


The next day I got a ride to the circuit from NISMO's Mr. Igarashi. In Japan, Nissan has its own rental car company. This was race day. Before the race, I got a chance to sit down with Michael Krumm for an interview. He is currently the co-driver of the #22 NISMO 350Z along with Richard Lyons - the only GT500 car in Super GT with two foreign drivers. As I mentioned previously, Michael and I had met back in March of 2005 at Sebring. We did the interview inside the NISMO team rig - a full-size trailer that has a rising roof to make it two full stories high. If I am not delusional then it's the same type of truck that the Formula One teams use. He remembered me, and my interview of him quickly turned into his interview of me; it seems as if we talked about our team and the GT-R for a bit too long. I did some homework the previous night and learned that he had gone skydiving, and had unknowingly married into Japanese royalty, as explained above - Mrs. Date Kimiko. The interview went well, and it should be up on the website shortly.
The NISMO GT500 Zs!
Copyright © NISMO


Then the crew chief, Mr. Iijima, also caught up with me and we finished the interview from the previous day. A spoiler - he was involved in the development of the R32 Skyline GT-R. On this day, I also gave Mr. Sanada a poster of our racecar and he promised to put it in his room. I am going to check up on that next time I go to Japan. I got introduced to the RE Amemiya GT300 RX-7 team owner - Mr. Amemiya - a really interesting and nice fellow. If anyone ever makes "The Real Fast and the Furious," Mr. Amemiya should definitely get a call. What astounded me about their RX7 is how overmatched it is construction-wise in the class. The RX-7 actually had a full production chassis and a lot of other noticeable "technical inferiorities" compared to the Dayton Prototype or the carbon chassis NSX against whom they are running. There is even a Vemac RD408R in GT300 - a purpose built British prototype that is as close to a formula car under the skin as I have seen, except for the Le Mans prototypes. For example, some cars in GT300 have an in-board shock design - the RX7 does not. Yet the RE Amemiya team is running very close to the top in the series, and I am definitely rooting for them, and of course, for the 350Z teams, and for the 666 NSX. Long story short, I got a chance to meet a lot of people this day around the paddock, even Mr. Matsuda Hideshi, who is currently co-driving the Porsche Boxter in GT300 but has a long history of motorsports, including the highest finish in Indy 500 for a Japanese driver in history - 8th in 1996. Everyone was extremely nice and very interesting, and I really loved the racing crowd in Super GT. The race was great, with both Zs in GT500 qualifying pretty high, and the #23 was leading the race in the second half, but had to fend off a Lexus SC430 every lap at the end of the straight-away. But right at the very end with about ten laps to go, the Lexus did get by, and the NISMO team 350Zs finished 2nd and 3rd.
The Super GT race podium at the Sugo circuit in Sendai.
Copyright © NISMO


The GT300 was a different story, where the 350Z dominated and easily took first place. Since the writing of this long-winded story, the NISMO 350Z GT500 took the first place in the Suzuka 12-hour endurance race! The day of the race, I left the racetrack to go back to Tsukuba city and spend more time with my elementary school classmates. That night, we gathered for dinner and I also finally met with my 5th/6th grade teacher. What a feeling it was to be back again! This teacher, Mr. Murata, was the most significant teacher in my schooling. The first day of 5th grade, he came in to the classroom, and he is a big guy, and I recall the ominous feeling the entire class felt. But he made a wonderful introduction and he made a promise. As he hated homework when he was little, he promised that he would never assign our class any homework. He kept his word for two straight years, and I learned more from him than anyone else in my years of schooling. He taught me my life's philosophy of perseverance. Plus he used to drive a R33 Nissan Skyline GT-S.


The next morning, I had more business to attend to around Tokyo. I met with the Google team in their Japan headquarters and got a tour of their offices. Mr. Tamura came along with me and we had some very fruitful and interesting discussions converging at the automotive industry and online marketing. Then, in mid-afternoon, my best friend from elementary school arrived in Tokyo from Miyagi-prefecture and we got more nostalgia flowing through our veins. In the evening, Mr. Tamura and I went to the Polyphony Digital headquarters, where we spent nearly 3 hours with Mr. Yamauchi, the developer of the Gran Turismo game series. It was a great honor and a dream come true for me to be able to meet him in person. After a lot of interesting discussions ranging from the reality aspect of the game to the current traction control technology incorporated in Formula One, I got a chance to sit down in a racing seat and embarrass myself in a Toyota 2000GT around the Twin Ring Motegi circuit for an online time attack. But wow, I can now say that I played Gran Turismo at its place of creation, with the developer of the game looking over my shoulder! Thank you Mr. Yamauchi!

From left to right: Mr. Tamura, Igor Sushko, and Mr. Yamauchi

And finally, my trip came to the last day, the 25th of July. In the morning, I had breakfast with Mr. Yamada Eiji, or as he is better known in the United States - Tarzan Yamada. We then went to Midori, a place with close ties to Michael Krumm, and also home of the world-famous Midori R34 Skyline GT-R time attack car. It's a clean white with virtually no graphics/stickers and with their signature bright green Volk TE37 wheels - of course this car is super-fast. From there, Mr. Suzuki Tetsuo of Shift was kind enough to pick me up and we went to his shop, around 45 minutes away in Yokohama city. He had flown to the United States in March of 2005 to assist us in conducting our first ever test with the recently purchased ex-Super Taikyu GT-R that we are now campaigning in Speed World Challenge GT series. I spent the remainder of the day with him as his team prepared to send off their crates for participation in an endurance race in Malaysia. This was the first time I got a chance to see the legendary R34 Falken Nur GT-R in person. Mr. Suzuki had just overhauled the entire vehicle from scratch, and it sparkled clean anywhere you looked around the car - even underneath!
Suzuki-san's R34 Skyline GT-R Nurburgring

This is the true epitome of a GT-R racecar in the world. He showed me some data logs from Nurburgring and we talked a lot about racing, and he shared a few stories from his past concerning his involvement with a championship-winning IMSA team. Mr. Suzuki is venerated in road racing throughout Japan, and he appears to be Nissan's first pick when it comes to finding a crew chief to run a factory team for production-based car. Recently, he was testing a prototype Nissan VQ engine in a Z33 350Z in Hokkaido during a Super Taikyu race. Mr. Suzuki's history http://www.shift-japan.com/result.htm is completely out of this world. Incredibly, he has 11 series championships under his belt in Group A and N1 endurance (Super Taikyu) between 1987 and 2001. He has won 8 one-off and endurance races, including the class win at Nurburgring 24 hours with the R34 Falken Skyline GT-R in 2004. Currently, he is the crew chief for a Porsche 911 GT3 Cup team in Super Taikyu. I had a great time the entire day and I sincerely appreciate Mr. Suzuki's hospitality during such a busy time - he is the true class in motorsports! Later in the evening Mr. Tamura dropped by and after spending more time around the shop, three of us went to dinner. Way past midnight, Mr. Suzuki gave me a ride to the hotel that he insisted on booking for me.


The next morning, I packed all my bags, went to the airport, dropped off my rented Japanese cell phone, and got on a plane to the United States. I felt completely unready to leave, and cherished the last moments of my time in Japan. Goodbye my home- it won't be long before I am back.


References in order of appearance:




  1. Tsukuba Circuit
  2. C.D.Takoh, Osaka
  3. PX Yamasaki Engineering, Osaka. A specialty tuning shop for Skyline GT-R and other performance cars - Tel - 011-81-66-722-6698
  4. St. Louis restaurant, Kanazawa - Tel - 011-81-76-223-6116
  5. Prince Skyline Museum
  6. NISMO
  7. Nissan Global
  8. Tsukuba Science City Information
  9. Matsushiro Elementary School
  10. Library Hotel - Sendai
  11. Michael Krumm official website
  12. Date Kimiko official website
  13. Sportsland Sugo (Circuit) - Miyagi
  14. Super GT official website
  15. Nissan Motorsports International (NISMO)
  16. Nissan Motor Co., LTD.
  17. Tsugio Matsuda GT500 #23 Z driver official website
  18. Team Bomex Dream 28 (GT300 NSX)
  19. Bomex
  20. RE Amemiya GT300 Mazda RX7 team website
  21. Arktech Motorsports GT300 Porsche Boxter team website
  22. Matsuda Hideshi official website
  23. Suzuka Circuit
  24. Google Japan
  25. Sony Corporation
  26. Polyphony Digital
  27. Gran Turismo
  28. Tarzan Yamada official website
  29. Midori Seibi Center website
  30. Mackin Industries/Rays Engineering
  31. Rays Wheels Japan
  32. Mr. Suzuki's Shift Race Car Engineering
  33. AutomotiveForums.com R34 Skyline GT-R test in March 2005 photo gallery
  34. Speed World Challenge
  35. Falken Tire
  36. Nurburgring official website
  37. Super Taikyu official website
  38. Porsche 911 GT3 Cup (996) official website
  39. Narita Airport

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