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Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Super Taikyu Fuji - Race day

Igor Sushko in the H.I.S. Nissan Fairlady Z

Well, it was a high followed by a low.
The race got to a good start with Maejima-san as start driver with plans to switch after either one or two stints for me to finish off the race.
We were 3rd on the grid and after a short drop to 4th place, Maejima-san climbed to 2nd with about 2.0 seconds gap to the #113 Karura Ings Z. But Maejima-san reported cramps in his legs with about 15 laps to go in the first stint. The heat was tremendous during the race and even though the car was equipped with a cooler full of ice and water that gets pumped through the underwear coolsuits and a motorized drink cooler, I imagine it would have been difficult to maintain focus for over an hour. Maejima-san ended up pitting 8 laps early. We topped the car off with fuel and just changed the rear tires. But on my out lap, two Class-2 cars had a major collision at the exit of the final corner to the right and I immediately knew it would cause a full course yellow. And as our luck would have it, the pace car came right out.

The pace car continued to let the cars by until it caught on to the race leader - Class-1 BMW Z4, so I was able to make up a lap, but it still put us one lap behind the class leader. The course went green again on lap 42 and I carefully began going through traffic. The tires got back to temperature and all seemed going well. On the next lap however, we had a race-ending event.

I was passing the #43 BMW M3 into the brake zone of turn 1, as I began making my move, the #43 blocked by veering to the right with some traffic up ahead in the brake zone. I veered further to the right - my brake line did not have any traffic ahead as I was quite a bit on the inside and I knew the #43 BMW would brake early. The H.I.S. Z's usual brake point is at 150m mark, but the BMW had already gotten on the brakes before the 200m mark and so I followed right around the 200m mark - I knew I was going to make the pass and do it safely into turn 1.

As soon as I got on the brakes however, the ABS engaged and it's as if the car lost brakes - I didn't slow anywhere close to making the corner and ended up t-boning another BMW right before the apex of the turn. As soon as I felt the impact I knew the race was over, and the dent on the door of the BMW was also pretty deep.
I quickly veered off course to the left into a safe spot. Front-left side of the car had visible damage, but surprisingly little - I don't know how but the oil-cooler, which usually goes first and the radiator were just fine.

All the arms on the left front were broken, and the left apron was about 3cm in.

For some time afterwards, I could not comprehend what happened, but the more our team learns of the incident, the more it appears to be an ABS problem - it most likely engaged when it should not have and was so active that it rendered the car nearly brake-less. We'll see what the conclusion will be.

Looks like our race win is going to be delayed until the next race at Okayama International Circuit at the beginning of September.