I moved to Yokohama at the beginning of April, where I will reside at least until the end of this year to continue with FCJ and Super Taikyu.
I am extremely fortunate to be getting help from the local friends that I've made here. I especially appreciate Orido Manabu 織戸学, who some of you may know from drifting and also as a driver of the Eclipse Advan Super GT GT500 Lexus SC430. Mr. Orido helped me find the apartment here and is a wonderful mentor. It's crazy how we hit it off from the very first time we met at the local restaurant that he owns - 559 Yokohama.
Yamada Kenji 山田賢司, the owner of Sessions, a tuner company focusing on luxury car VIP customizations, has been awesome to me, especially since I currently do not yet have a street car here.
Itou Mirai, the former bartender at the 559 Yokohama, also lives nearby and has been helping me with the move.
Despite it being one whole month since getting the apartment, I only recently got the amenities like the tv, table, chairs, couch, work desk, and the like. It's still a bit empty but it's almost there. I got back to Japan on April 16th and had to immediately go to the Super Taikyu season opener at Sendai Hiland, which was then followed by the Motegi test for Formula Challenge Japan. I am still sleeping on a futon I bought at a local store as I have not had a chance to purchase a bed.
H.I.S., a renown travel agency here in Japan has signed up as my personal sponsor for this season's racing in Japan. This fact is already brining in a lot of positive attention to our activities and is a definite step forward.
Since the last update, we had the races 3 and 4 for FCJ at Fuji Speedway. I am taking a bit longer than I anticipated to get up to speed in this series, which goes to show how high the level of Japanese formula racing is for this generation. Every one of the 26 guys I am racing against are very talented, and I'd wager at least a few will make it to Formula One from here.
Following the FCJ race, after going back to America shortly, I went to Sendai Hiland for Super Taikyu. This again was a new track for me, and I have to say that all the tracks in Japanese are uniquely interesting and difficult, with a large variety of corners mixed with elevation changes.
For Super Taikyu, the team owner Maejima Shyuji and Miyakawa Yasuo are the co-drivers. Miyakawa Yasuo previously won the Carrera Cup championship in Japan and has even raced in Super GT GT300 in a Porsche 911 GT3 RSR. Both of these guys are going to be great mentors for me this year, as they have decades of motorsports experience among them.
The conditions of the race itself were absurd - the 500km race slated for 124 laps was stopped at about 75 laps. Out of the 75 laps, the vast majority were under a full course yellow with a pace car because of the FOG!!!! The fog decreased visibility to about 50 meters, and in some places even less. It was like racing blind. When the rain came down a little bit, the fog immediately cleared up to allow for a few green laps, and then the fog would settle again.
We "finished" 7th in the class, although I am not yet sure how this race is going to be counted since it was stopped before the 85% or even the 75% mark.
Then a few days later I went to Tochigi-prefecture for the FCJ test at Twin Ring Motegi. It's so cool to be able to go to all these tracks after having driven on the in Gran Turismo and dreaming about once getting on them in real life. The first day was heavy rain, and the second day was pretty nice.
Unfortunately, we ran into a problem on the second day when most likely a small piece of rock hit the intake butterfly and made some big scratches causing the butterfly to remain open 10-15% despite zero throttle. So in essence, it's as if my gas pedal was stuck. It was definitely a worthwhile experience since this could happen anytime in racing. I had to continually adjust the driving style to accommodate this problem. I was behind pace due to this by a few seconds, but the braking proved to be very poor, with the continual forward torque to the rear wheels even during braking. This caused the front tires to lock up very early on, forcing me to move the brake bias to the rear, further diminishing the braking performance. The car actually accelerated with no throttle input at even high-rpms in 2nd gear!
Kagayama Masami and Tanaka Tetsuya have been helping me as advisers within the FCJ series and are very supportive of my progress. It's rather interesting how our current activities coincide - In addition to being the Nissan FCJ advisers to me, all three of us are racing Super Taikyu this year in Nissan Fairlady Zs, they are both in Class-1 in separate cars and I am in Class-3.
I have already been approached from an interested party in having me race in GT300 next year, which is exactly what I believe to be the right path - GT300 and F3 in 2008.
Right now, I need to settle down a bit and get ready to impress people on the track, just as I had done in the U.S. back with Skip Barber Formula Dodge and go-karts.
So far, everytime on the track has been a new adjustment to the environment, whether it be a completely different styled race car (1200 lb formula car to 3200 lb production car), wild weather, new track, or something other. Adjusting to all the variety of factors is quite overwhelming, but this is exactly what it takes to become the best - and I am ready.
Next up is the 2nd round of the Super Taikyu series at Suzuka this upcoming weekend. The following weekend is the rounds 5 and 6 of the FCJ at Motegi.
I am ready.