This past weekend was the season opening race at Suzuka for the Super Taikyu endurance series. This year, I am with a new team - #15 Okabe Jidosha Dixcel Nissan Z.
My co-drivers are Nagashima Masaaki 長島 正明 and Komatsu Kazuomi 小松 一臣 .
Working with the engineer and the mechanics is a breeze and the team is just a pleasure to be a part of. Nagashima-san is running a two-car team - our Z and a Mazda RX7.
Through Friday practice and Saturday qualifying, we struggled with the setup of the car. This put us in a tight spot as only a very dramatic setup change could give us a chance for the race. After detailed discussions with the engineer, we decided to do just that, significantly adjusting the shock bump/rebound settings on the front and rear and augmenting the change by changing the rear-wing angle at the same time. We got one chance to try this setup on Sunday morning warm-up and sure enough, got the same time on used tires with a full gas tank as we had the previous day on new tires with an empty tank during qualifying. It was a completely different car.
Although we qualified in 6th for our class, we finished the 500km race in 3rd - my maiden podium in my Japanese racing career! The setup worked splendidly - our car did not lose any pace as the tires got worn out during each stint, perfectly compensated by the loss of weight at the rear as 100 liters of gasoline was being burned little by little with each lap.
It was awesome. Next weekend, I go to Super GT at Fuji to hopefully find a ride for the Suzuka Pokka 1000km endurance race this summer in a GT300 car to continue to build on this success and fatten up my resume a little. The following week, I will be racing at Suzuka in FCJ Formula Renault, and then a week later we have Rd. 2 of Super Taikyu at Sendai Hiland. This is going to be a busy month!
Suzuka 500KM Super Taikyu Photo Gallery
Okabe Jidosha Motorsports
Okabe Jidosha Dealership and Tuning Shop