Tuesday, December 11, 2007

My signed poster being sold on eBay

I got a lead that a motorsports collector is selling my signed poster from '07 SEMA Show in Las Vegas.

View the Igor Sushko signed poster on eBay.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Super Taikyu and Japanese Formula Renault races, SEMA Show, and more...

The last few races have been very tough – as they started really well and ended very bad. The Super Taikyu race at Okayama, a circuit I had never seen before, went off to an awesome start when we qualified on pole in our class with a couple of tenths to spare. The qualifying position is determined by the sum of the top lap time of both drivers, each in a 15 minute session, thus requiring that both drivers land a near perfect lap to be on top.

This was our first pole position of the year and the race was ours to lose based on the consistently good setup of the car and fast laps in a variety of conditions that we saw in Friday practices.

Maejima-san started the race off, keeping his position on the start, but in the brake zone going into turn 3, the #113 Z, driven by Ooi, attempted an overzealous pass on the inside, crashing into the right rear of our car at a rather severe speed and further taking out a total of 5 Nissan Zs from the race. We got hit another time in the front by a different Z after the initial collision with #113.

A few weeks ago we had a race at Sugo Circuit. Ichinari-san, our new crew chief is really passionate and unforgiving and is really great – he rebuilt the car from the crash in Okayama better than it was ever before. The weekend started off fine – on Thursday, Maejima-san posted fastest class lap times out of the box, and further refined the car with minor setup adjustments.

Maejima-san even had enough confidence in me not to put me in the car that day. On Friday, he gave me just a few laps on a dry track and I was about 1.5 seconds off of his lighting-fast time – a gap small enough having had only a handful of laps that I relatively easily dissolved by analyzing the data. The last session on Friday was in full wet conditions in a very dense fog at times. I was one of the fastest in the class. The car was hydroplaning on the straights and it was exactly the kind of condition in which I widen the gap with the others, both in production cars and in formula cars. Our scheduled qualifying on Saturday was delayed multiple times due to heavy rain until it was rescheduled for Sunday morning. But due to time constraints, all four classes were combined into a 15-minute qualifying session, whereas usually the groups are split into Class-1/2 and Class 3/4. Maejima-san posted an excellent time in his session and barely missed the top by getting the checkered flag right when he started his final flying lap after a tire pressure adjustment on the wet tires – the track was still wet but drying fast as the sun was beaming hot with some wind helping out. After a 15 minute break, my 15 minute qualifying session began – we put on the dry tires from the get go – the track was still extremely wet in some places, but overall it was dry enough. I conducted two reconnaissance laps and picked up pace on my 3rd lap. With a time in 1:35:xx, I was in 5th place overall, even though we are in Class-3 with Lancer Evolutions and Subaru WRX STIs in Class-2 and Porsche 911s and a BMW Z4 GTR in Class-1 up above. But then we got red-flagged with a crash on the track. After we got back on with 7 minutes to go, I struggled with traffic – since a combined four-class qualifying meant over 30 cars on the track, and then another crash brought us back into the pits. The track continued to dry and we got out with 4 minutes to go – which meant the out lap and two hot laps if the out lap is fast enough. I had to weave through traffic on the out lap to ensure I had an extra final lap. I went into turn-1 too hot the first lap, killing the time completely, made it to the start/finish line in time for the last lap, but then messed up the first SP corner – a high-speed left hand. I ended up with a middle-pack time for our class. The car was behaving really well though, and we knew we still had an excellent chance for the race. Our combined qualifying position was 5th.

The race was 135 laps. Maejima-san moved up to 2nd place in just a few laps, with only an RX7 ahead of us, which we knew would fade out – the RX7s can turn up the boost for qualifying but then they have to lower it back down or risk breaking in the race. Our car could safely go 58 laps on a full tank. We got a full course yellow with a safety car on lap 18 through 20, so we opted to go ahead and pit, effectively taking care of one of the two necessary pits during a yellow. The only other car that pitted was #113 Z, which had a bad start and was well behind positions. But the #113 car pitted when the pits were not yet open, suffering a drive through penalty after the course went green. We were the only car in our class to successfully pit with perfect timing, also due to our good traction position. We didn’t lose a lap, and better yet, came back out to be 4th in class – dropping only two positions, since the tank was still 2/3 full and just needed a quick top-off. This meant that we were running in 4th position on the lead lap and had only one more pit to go in the race, while the rest of the class had two pits to complete. This was a dream position to be in. The tires began to drop away with heat but Maejima-san managed them excellently, getting back into first place after the cars up front made their first pit stops around lap 60. We stayed out until lap 75, at which point I got into the car, refueled to full tank and got new tires to finish off the race. Since Class-3 cars a little slower than Class-1, we end up losing about 3-4 laps over the course of a 500km race, so it was safe to pit at 75 and know that the remaining 58 lap range on the gas tank was going to be enough to finish the race. The strategy was perfect – putting us effectively one lap ahead of everyone in the class. The #74 Z however managed to pick off about 2 seconds a lap during the 2nd half of Maejima-san’s stint, and it did pass him before the pit stop, driven by Yasuda – a go-kart world champion and current NISMO GT up-and-coming driver – but we knew that we had a chance to re-pass during their remaining pit stop, and in worst case we would finish 2nd on the podium. I was running a good comfortable pace and saw the lap count at the start/finish line continue to decrease 57, 56, 55… 45… I was passing the slower cars, and yielding to the higher-class cars. But, when the Class-1 BMW Z4 GTR come up from behind at the 2nd SP and came out to the left at the entrance of the final corner, I made a slight error. The final corner at Sugo is a 10% incline right-hand-turn, which is open enough to run in 4th gear. The car was to the right and behind me right at the entrance of the corner, and I had slight hesitation on whether I should begin the turn and hold my line or let it get the line and tuck in behind the BMW for the uphill. I let the BMW go on the inside, but it did not get ahead of me as fast as I had anticipated, despite my holding off on the gas pedal. During this extra split second of unanticipated waiting, I caught a little bit of the tire marbles on the outside of the regular line, and so the car lost all left-front grip, and continued to go straight, through the area of the track with more marbles, and off of the course, and ended up tagging the wall with the front left of the car. Thus our race ended, while being on top – two in a row. It is completely unbearable to think that my mistake has caused this to our team – we had such a great car and it seemed as though we were finally going to get it done.

The following day, I flew to Las Vegas for the SEMA show – it’s always great to see all the faces again. There are a lot of people that I only get to see at the SEMA show over the year, especially now that I am in Japan most of the time. Tamura-san from Nissan also attended the show, as did our last year’s R34 GT-R, which was displayed at the Toyo Tire booth. Yamachan from Sessions, right nearby me here in Japan, also flew out.

Sakai-san, my manager, was out at SEMA and we had dinner on the first day and reminisced on the last Super Taikyu race – how great it was going and how badly it ended. The car was damaged enough so that repairing it was not possible before the season finale at Motegi, as there was only a 10 day gap.

But with that fact, a new opportunity arose – the Super Street Time Attack at Buttonwillow. It seemed like a perfect chance to get back in the R34 Nissan Skyline GT-R.

Last time I was in the car was at this same event exactly a year ago. However, as Victor, our manager on the U.S. side, began to arrange for an entry into the event, it seemed that some politics began to get in the way. Victor was in touch with Elliot Moran from Super Street and he was told that we could run the car, but they will not provide it any coverage in the magazine because my company AutomotiveForums.com, the sponsor of the World Challenge GT-R is their “competition.” When Victor told me I began to laugh since Primedia has no significant automotive message board and AF is the #1 in the world by membership – over 540,000 worldwide. If anything, it seemed that covering our participation on our own website would be great free press for them and their event. Regardless, I still thought it would be great to attend since my friends from here in Japan, like Tarzan Yamada and Daijiro Yoshiahara were going to attend, along with Steve Mitchell and I am sure many other familiar faces. But of course, the biggest reason was to take the ol’ GT-R out on the track and feel the rush of 650 hp.

Then a few days later, Victor calls me while I am in New York city for Ad:Tech, an internet marketing convention, and tells me that now Elliot told him that we cannot attend the event at all because the GT-R is a “race car.” So, I got in touch with Elliot Moran and had him tell me the same thing. His explanation is that race cars entering their time attack have an unfair advantage. Considering the fact that he mentioned that he had just gotten back from the track with his own race car, it seemed absolutely crazy that he would not understand – cars specifically built for the time attack would obviously have an advantage over race cars from series with sanctioning bodies. Our GT-R has been built from the ground up to meet an entire book of regulations to ensure close competition between a variety of cars and to minimize the costs. On the other hand, cars built for the time attack are no less of a race car, but have no rules restricting them – they can have any engine modifications, and chassis structure, any aerodynamic devices, and… you get the point. I let him know that this rule is completely irrational and that their entity is going to loose a lot of credibility for pulling a stunt like this. The winning car of the time attack, which would have been in the same class as our GT-R, unlimited all-wheel-drive, was a purpose-built race car with an appearance of a Lancer Evolution, which ran a 1:44 time at Buttonwillow – about 5 seconds faster than a fully prepared Porsche 911 GT3 Cup racecar with an ace driver behind the wheel. This winning car weighs around 1100kg (2400lbs) and has a better power to weight ratio than the Japanese Super GT500, the fastest GT cars in the world par none. This car is as much a Lancer Evolution as I am a monkey.

I arrived back in Japan on November 9th, and attended the Super Taikyu race at Motegi to apologize to our sponsors for the way our season ended. Everyone I’ve talked to continues to have great confidence in me and my development over the year and are asking whether I am going to be in the GT300 next year. As of right now, I don’t have anything confirmed for next year since it's still a bit too early, so we will see.

I have the season finale race in the Formula Renault at Suzuka this coming weekend.

The last two races which I had not had a chance to report about here on the website were a mix of things. The Sugo race did not go too well, with a spin in each one despite really good starts. In the first race of the weekend, I picked up about 5 cars during the first lap and was running a good pace. But then the last FCJ race at Motegi went pretty well – I was rather consistent and finished about 7 places higher from my starting position with some clean passes. The weekend at Fuji was not bad, especially when I posted a 3rd fastest time during the rain in a practice session, with just a couple of tenths off of the top time.

When I entered the advisor room filled with top Nissan, Honda, and Toyota factory drivers in Japan, Sekiya-san, the director of Toyota’s development program, told me that my improvement this year was significantly more dramatic than any other of the 26 drivers we have in the series and then other advisors in the room all agreed. It was a great pat on the back, especially from someone from Toyota, while I am more associated with Nissan than anyone else.

I have been riding on some bad luck recently, so hopefully the tide has now turned and I will be able to finish the FCJ season strong at Suzuka this weekend to get the momentum building for next year.

Links to photo galleries:
Formula Challenge Japan - Japanese Formula Renault
Super Taikyu - #333 H.I.S. Nissan Fairlady Z

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

More photos in the gallery

More photographs have been added to the racing gallery.

Visit the main page here: AF Photo Gallery

Or see the new photos: FCJ Fuji.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

2007 SEMA Show - セマショー ラス・ベガス

今年のLas Vegasで行われるSEMA Show セマ・ショーに行く予定がありましたら、こちらのページを使ってH.I.S.のパッケージを調べる事をお勧めします。パッケージに当てはまらない予定でも、H.I.S.にたずねてみて下さい。

H.I.S. SEMA ショー ラスベガス ページ

H.I.S. は今年の僕のモータースポーツスポンサーになってとても良い関係が出来上がりました。 H.I.S.は価格やサービスなど、いろんな面でお勧めできる会社で、スポンサーとしての関係を生かすのがとても気楽です。エイチ・アイ・エスは今年がモータースポーツ世界の経験が初めてですので、大変気合を入れています。もータースポーツ関係の方には得にチャンスだと思います。 SEMAだけではなく、どんな旅でもH.I.S.に連絡してみて下さい。H.I.S.を使った方が安い可能性は大分高いですし、毎回同じ方が案内をしてくれますのでカスタマーサポートの上級さにもびっくりすると思います。



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.

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Super Taikyu Fuji - Qualifying

We had qualifying for the round 4 of Super Taikyu at Fuji Speedway today.

Best result so far this season - 3rd!
On pole is an RX7, which posted a ridiculous 1:51.1 lap time by running an incredible amount of boost, breaking the previous lap record for our class by one tenth. In 2nd place is a Z, with both drivers posting a 1:52.6xx lap time.
Maejima-san got a 1:53.3 despite a huge oversteer slide in the 100R corner and some other minor mistakes. I was completely ready to best his time but ended up posting 1:54.0. Unfortunately, I ran into traffic from the same class out of nowhere (cars came out of pits in front of me) and the only clear lap I had was the first hot lap when the stickers had not yet gotten enough heat into them so I got a huge oversteer slide in the 100R and then some understeer beyond B-corner on the back side. However, the entire team is really happy with the result. After looking over the in-car video, which I hope to post here in the future, and the data-log, we should be able to comfortably run a 1:54.xx pace the entire race tomorrow. If we get a little bit of luck on our side, a podium finish is absolutely feasible, maybe even that middle spot.


Super Taikyu Fuji Qualifying Result

Monday, July 23, 2007

Tokachi 24 Hours - Super Taikyu Race #3

A week ago, the 3rd race of the season was held for Super Taikyu - the only 24 hour race on the schedule - at the northern island of Hokkaido in the city of Tokachi. (十勝)

We flew by plane on Friday morning but the rig with the race car arrived slightly late cutting some of the track time. I only managed to get a few laps in during the night session on Friday - the track is not very complicated, but not having been to it before, it was slightly difficult to know the way to go in the dark. I also had never raced in the dark before, so I had been looking forward to especially this race this year. It was going to be my first ever 24 hour race!

For this race only, we had four drivers total to last through 24 hours.
On Saturday, due to a small off that damaged the oil-cooler by one of my co-drivers, I again only got an opportunity to driver for another 6 laps or so in the dark. You'll be amazed at how little you can see going 130-150 mph with no lights around. The headlights are nearly not enough.

Finally came the race day on Sunday. In the morning practice session, I for the first time got a chance to drive in the light and get a jist of the track, but even then, I got in about 3 laps. Not much practice time with four drivers!

The race started at 3 PM on Sunday and ended at 3 PM on Monday.

Our starting position was 7th in class as per our current ranking - the 24 hour race does not have qualifying.

Our fuel was enough for about 1:40, which meant many pitstops.

Yamazaki-san started the race and kept a good pace for the first stint to come in and change with Sugino-san. However, the rain began to trickle down but not enough to be able to use wet tires, and our pace was slightly slower in this condition.

We then had a pit before schedule around 6:00 pm - still on dry tires but we filled the tank up and I got into the car. I ended up driving for 2 stints - nearly 3:30 hours into the darkness - the rain continued to come down but it still was not enough to change to wets during my mid-pitstop. I was consistently quick and was making up time but then I had a spin, luckily I only lost about 20 seconds and had to re-pass all the same cars all over again. I was certainly excited for my first 24 hour race and my emotions got the better of me.

Then Maejima-san got in for a stint, but we made a strategic mistake of not going with the wets this time as the surface continued to worsen. The conditions were rough though and Maejima-san ordered me back in the car after his stint as I was best positioned to drive in both the wet and the dark from my previous double stint in those conditions.

I drove for another 2 stints back to back, no spins this time, and even posting top times in the class. Racing for this long in complete darkness, especially while it's raining was really surreal. Having a car lead in front of you was always easier as the visibility improved, but I didn't want to be held up so I continued to pass our competition. There were a few times when I'd pass a car and could not adjust to the immediate lack of sight fast enough - you don't realize you're slightly off the track surface at the exit until you're actually off.

By the time I was done with my second double-stint, it was sometime around 3 a.m. I followed the race for another hour and a half or so and then I slept a little bit in our team van. Maejima-san woke me up around 11:00 a.m. to tell me to get ready for my last drive starting around noon. I got in the car, fully awake by then, and got a real taste of driving the Z in the dry with sunlight! We also used this opportunity to tryout the hardest Yokohama compound, and it seemed to last for at least 3:30 hours, probably 4, but the time was roughly 4.0 seconds slower than the soft compound. I drove the middle stint with these tires, and they did not fall off at all, just severe understeer all over. I consistently ran 2:20 to 2:22 lap times, with even a few 2:19s in there, but with nearly 40 cars on the track, it's really hard to keep the loss to a minimum during the passes.

We finished 5th in class about 29 laps behind the winner. The result really showed that without some of the issues - the differential problem, a loose wheel lug, a couple of spins, and a pit stop that had to be made when I got hit by the JGTC Toyota Supra hybrid in the dark... oh wait - I think forgot to talk about this.

During the night, with hard rain coming down, and lots of cars front and rear, there was a Class-4 Integra that turned its left-turn-signal to let me pass and steered to the very right at the entrance of a right-hand corner after the 20R Hairpin. I proceeded to do so very close to it on the inside and when I had already made the pass but still in the entry of the corner before the apex, the JGTC Hybrid Toyota Supra smashed into my right side, but not from the rear or diagonally, but rather directly from the side, our front wheels colliding hard together but no damage otherwise. As soon as that happened the steering wheel got bent about 70 degrees but the car seemed normal, but due to the impact, I came in for a checkup in the pits, which of course cost us more time.

The 24 hour race was an awesome experience - I feel so much more comfortable in the car now, and my speed in the rain continues to show. I also got a lot better at managing the traffic - it's an art in itself.

Next up is Fuji Speedway - a track I got to know quite well through the FCJ program - both tests and races, so it will be a good time for our team to shine. We will be back to the 2-driver lineup with Maejima-san for this one, and if we manage a good qualifying spot, I see standing in the middle of the podium completely within reach.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

FCJ at Suzuka for Rounds 9 and 10

I just got back a few days ago from Suzuka. We had 2 hours of testing on Thursday followed by two 45 minute practice sessions on Friday, two Qualifying sessions and Race 9 on Saturday, and a longer race 10 (17 laps - 40 minutes or so) on Sunday.
Igor Sushko
This has been the most interesting FCJ race weekend yet. The practices were all in the dry but I was following the weather it appeared there was a good chance for rain during the Saturday morning qualifying. Somehow it just felt so right. The first qualifying session, I did not anticipate being held by the field in front of me, as I am usually not that fast, but it happened. I dropped back and tried again and as luck would have the same thing happened. I still qualified 16th out of 27 for race 9. After the first qualifying session, we get a 10 minute break for adjustments and then get back on the track for another 15 minute qualifying session. This time around, I just let everyone go ahead and waited for about half a lap. Sure enough, it did come together - 13th place in qualifying. Up until this weekend, my highest qualifying position was somewhere around 23rd, so this was a huge jump. I was within 0.95 seconds of the pole position, while of course the entire grid got spaced out much more than during dry-condition qualifying.

It was great to be finally out of the gutter.

Tanaka Tetsuya-san 田中哲也 seemed even happier than me to finally see me break through.
He has been patiently waiting for me to leap by guiding me throughout this season.

The races themselves were not nearly as exciting as the qualifying. The track was dry for both races. The Saturday race was not going too bad until I went off slightly in turn 1, but managed to barely maintain traction to get out of there... You're in 5th gear there in turn 1 and the car literally jumped several times as I went over the rumble strips and into the sand. That bent one of the control arms so the car didn't turn very well for the remainder of the race.

The Sunday race had an exciting beginning. The feeling of starting in 13th place out of 27 cars after having been that 27th for so long was incredible. The launch went pretty well and I passed two cars and #6 Kei Cozzolino somehow passed a few more after starting beside me. At the end of lap 1 I was in 12th. After that, I settled into a rhythm in 14th place while fiercely defending my position from car that was all over me - afterall, I had been a bit slower than the top drivers in the dry, so it was showing, despite my wet qualifying position. I was blocking at nearly every corner and successfully. But after about 5 laps of this, I ran over the outside rumble strips at the 130R (6th gear full throttle left at 145mph) causing a slight brake knockback for the upcoming chicane (the hardest braking zone at Suzuka). I could not slowdown enough and went out just a bit into the green zone and then back right out at the end of the chicane. But I lost enough time and speed to be passed by a total of 5 cars due to this mistake by the end of the straightaway.

With this, I finished 20th.

I am finally beginning to show a competitive edge around these top-level racers and I can't wait for the next race at Fuji in August.

This Friday, our Super Taikyu team is flying to Hokkaido for the Tokachi 24 Hour race. It seems like everyone and their mother is competing in it - Orido Manabu 織戸学 and Taniguchi Nobuteru 谷口信輝 will be racing in a Porsche 911 in Class-1. Yamashita Junichiro will be in an S2000 in Class-3. There is even going to be a retired JGTC GT500 Toyota Supra with a hybrid engine. I also heard rumors of a SEAT racecar coming in from Europe.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

FCJ back at Fuji Speedway for Rounds 7 and 8.

We were back to Fuji on the weekend of June 16 for the 7th and 8th rounds of Formula Challenge Japan.

The Thursday test sessions were in the rain and although the overall lap time was not near the top, there was a certain part that stunned everyone - I was the fastest person around the 100R turn. 100R is a 100 meter radius right-hander and the most difficult corner at Fuji, even at the speed of nearly 125mph, this corner lasts for around 7 seconds. It is especially difficult in the rain because the car's downforce and the tires' lower traction limits can really play tricks with you and cause severe instantaneous oversteer, which must be continually managed throughout the corner in order to be fast.

Igor Sushko - FCJ

The rest of the weekend did not go so well. I am definitely getting faster, but so is everyone else, and my relative position to the field remained near the back.

My main issue with Fuji is the back-side of the track, after the chicane. I am lacking smoothness in these mid-speed corners and am therefore losing downforce and creating understeer.

I finished both races in 23rd place out of 27.
Igor Sushko

See more photos from the FCJ Race at Fuji Speedway

Monday, May 21, 2007

FCJ - Twin Ring Motegi - rounds 5 and 6.

Rd.5 は雨で26位スタートで11位フィニッシュでした!

全体的にはとてもよかったです- 前、アクセルをOFFしても、最高27.3%まであいてた問題を最終に直せて、トップと一秒以内の差のタイムを出せました。



From May 17th through the 20th, I was at the Twin Ring Motegi circuit in Tochigi-ken for the 5th and 6th rounds of FCJ. The weather was extremely unpredictable throughout the weekend, with wet, semi-dry, and dry sessions on the track. The throttle problem continued to haunt the team despite having previously replaced the damaged butterfly and the throttle-body. Finally on the evening of Saturday, after the 5th round, it was fixed for the 6th round race the next day.

The 5th round was raced in the wet and I got the best finish so far - 11th out of 27. One more spot and I would have gotten a point for the series.

The 6th round on Sunday was held in beautiful weather and it was going quite well, despite my qualifying position of 27th, I got up to 16th through avoidance of a large crash and turning the event into an opportunity to pass more cars. However near the end of the race, with 5 laps to go, an accident befell me. On the downhill straightaway after the hairpin in the back, when downshifting from 6th gear to 5th under threshold braking, the gear did not catch and the transmission went into neutral. Immediately, the rear tires locked up due to zero assistance from the regularly expected engine-brake (since the engine was no longer connection to the axles) and as it sometimes happens with rear-tire-lockup, the car turned around 60 degrees to the left into the nearby wall, at around 200 km.

However, I for the first time got to an under-1-second gap from the top finisher in lap time and things are progressing quite well despite this setback.

Next up for FCJ is the next two rounds at Fuji in mid-June, so nearly a month off - during which I may drive in a F4 car for practice and will certainly be doing lots of go-karting.

On May 30th, Maejima Shyuji and I will be going to Fuji Speedway with the H.I.S. Super Taikyu Fairlady Z for a test along with a possible 3rd driver for the upcoming 24-hour race at Tokachi in Hokkaido.

Visit the new photo galleries for FCJ

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Super Taikyu Round 2 - Suzuka Circuit

The round 2 of Super Taikyu was held at Suzuka Circuit on May 13th. Maejima-san and I drove the H.I.S. Nissan Fairlady Z Z33 to 5th place in class. It's a good result to get the season going, but we had a few mishaps in the pits and I also need to pick up my pace by a second or so.

We qualified in 7th place and Maejima-san, as the starting driver, quickly picked off several spots and ran a good pace. By the 2nd pitstop, he actually got up to first in class, but an issue with a lug on the right rear tire made the stop extremely long.

By the time I got out of the pits, I was in 6th place with the BuddyClub Z on my tail waiting for an opening. As I was running on cold tires, this was a slightly stressful situation for the first lap, but then I settled into a rhythm and continued to put distance between myself and the car in the rear-view mirror. Then a car ahead pitted and we got up to 5th place. I drove for 29 laps and remained in the same spot at the finish line, with over a minute to the 4th place car ahead.

We have six 350Zs in the Class-3 category, and another two in Class-1, so NISMO conducted a photoshoot of all the entrants.

Next up is the Tokachi 24-hour race in Hokkaido in July. However, I have a few FCJ races in-between - going to Motegi tomorrow for this weekend's Rd. 5/6 for the Formula Challenge Japan series. I am definitely beginning to settle in inside the cockpits of these two cars and am looking forward to surprising more people.

Super GT - Fuji

I went to Fuji Speedway to watch the Super GT race.
Since Orido Manabu is racing the Eclipse Advan Lexus SC430 in GT500, we spent quite a bit of time in his area. Before the race, he performed an exhibition drift with Taniguchi Nobuteru. Orido-san drove his Toyota Supra and the drifting on the straightaway at what was probably close to 100mph was incredible - inches away from either side, cutting it at about 45 degrees each way.

The race had lots of excitement with a few cars catching fire and many familiar faces in the cockpits of the race cars. Inoue Shin from Zele International was also hanging out. The photo below is Yamada Kenji and me.
Yamada Kenji and Igor Sushko

Unfortunately Orido-san's Lexus blew an engine after running as high as 6th despite a 10th place qualifying position - he was really on a roll to the front.

But the race result was marvelous - the #23 Nissan Fairlady Z Z33 won with the #22 Nissan Fairlady Z close behind in 2nd. This puts Nissan at the top so far this season. The professionalism of the NISMO team is at the top within the GT500 paddocks, with error-free pitwork and flawless and cool-headed driving by the drivers - Michael Krumm, Richard Lyons, Motoyama Satoshi, and Matsuda Tsugio.

For the gallery, visit: http://files.automotiveforums.com/media/v/Events/SuperGT-Fuji-May2007/

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

How different racing can be -

The differences - Super Taikyu Class-3 Nissan Fairlady Z (Z33 350Z) and Formula Challenge Japan-spec Formula Car.

After the season-opening FCJ race at Suzuka in March, I hopped into the Z the following day for a few laps and I was completely thrown off - I was so used to the sweet feeling of the formula car that now driving a production car felt like this huge slow beast. You feel the weight shifting dramatically from left to right and back-and-forth, the car barely turns, and the brakes don't work.
Since, I've driven the Z a bit more and also got back into the FCJ car after the Hiland race with the Z. The readjustment to the two radically different driving styles is a huge challenge, but an interesting one - and an ability to manage such different cars is pivotal to being a great racecar driver.

The FCJ formula car - 600kg, open-wheel, and right-hand sequential shifter with ignition-cut wire (meaning I don't have to lift off the gas when shifting).
The Z - 1300kg, production car, left-hand H-pattern shifter.

FCJ - left foot only works the brakes, right foot only works the gas. Zero use of clutch pedal.
Z - primarily right-foot-braking and rev-match with the right foot while on the brakes, and left foot sometimes used for brake adjustment and the clutch pedal.

FCJ - no power brakes, no power steering. (Brake pressure applied by the foot is about 70psi)
Z - yes.

FCJ - incredible amount of downforce, allowing for up to 2.8 Gs in brakes and cornering.
Z - nearly no downforce, brakes and cornering at around 1.8 Gs.

FCJ - you get wet when it rains.
Z - it's got a roof.

FCJ - 40 minute races.
Z - 500km distance races with 2 other drivers, and one 24-hour race.

But of course, there are more similarities than differences - the biggest one being that both cars have 4 tires in contact with the ground and you have the controls to make the car brake, accelerate, and turn!

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Racing racing racing!

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.

Friday, March 23, 2007

A little more about FCJ

There is really barely any info on the internet about this series, so these notes might shed a little more light for those who are curious.

At Suzuka, we went full throttle in 6th gear through the 130R at around 230km. Turn one is just slight trail brakes while in 6th gear starting from 240km. The cornering forces are incredible - over 2.6/2.7 Gs at somewhere like Suzuka's 130R or Fuji 100R (The 180 degree right hand turn). Braking is also fun due to downforce - over 2.4 initial Gs in the braking zone after 130R before the Chicane.

My top lap time was 2:04.5, which is faster than most Super GT GT300 class cars. F3 is about 1:55 and Super GT GT500 is around 1:50 in qualifying.

My advisors are Tanaka Tetsuya and Kageyama Masami - both championship-winning factory Nissan drivers. They instruct a group of 8 of us. Toyota and Honda have similar groups, and we are all encouraged to speak with all advisors. There is very little partinsanship in the series - the entire organization is very united in the goal of raising the best possible race car drivers.

We are only allowed to adjust tire pressure on the car.

The cars are equipped with a 34 channel data logger and we are provided everyone else's data after every session. I usually look at RPM, speed (they have overall max speed, left front wheel, right front wheel), steering angle, throttle, brake pressure, and lateral and cornering Gs.

The overall format of the series, where multiple manufacturers are funding and promoting the program in completely equal cars, and sharing everyone's data with everyone, is probably first time ever in history of motorsports.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Super Taikyu test - Nissan Fairlady Z shakedown

We conducted the shakedown of the brand-new Nissan Fairlady Z racecar the day following delivery from NISMO at the Suzuka Circuit. In class 3, the competition is four other Z33 Zs, RX7s, NSXs, and an M3. The cars are blazingly fast despite low power - a little over 300hp. With the car in the as-delivered suspension setup/height, we were able to get a time of 2:18.8 within a few laps.

The next item on my schedule is the Fuji Speedway race with FCJ, on March 31 and April 1. We have two test days prior to the race weekend, and I am certain that I will be posting a much better result report here compared to the season opener at Suzuka.

Monday, March 19, 2007

FCJ Race Rd.1 and Rd.2 - Suzuka

Some photographs are up from the first race weekend of Formula Challenge Japan:
View the FCJ image gallery

The race results were not satisfactory - 26th in the first race and 21st in the second race, but the season is long and the next race is in 10 days at Fuji.

Suzuka is an extraordinary race track and I am looking forward to coming back here three more times over the year - once for Super Taikyu with the Nissan 350Z and twice for FCJ races alongside Formula Nippon.

This evening, NISMO delivered the Super Taikyu-spec Nissan 350Z race car to Suzuka. Tomorrow will be our first shakedown of the Z.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Season opener with Super GT at Suzuka

Tomorrow is the official practice for the season-opener at Suzuka this weekend. We have tested here for the past two days. All 27 cars got some coloring now. My car looks like this:

View in the gallery

Real photos of the car will come in the next few days.
The yellow and blue represent the Ukrainian flag, the top half is blue (sky) and the bottom half is yellow (wheat fields). The red circle is of course the Japanese flag, as having grown up in Japan from age six through twelve, Japan is as large a part of me as Ukraine.

This series is truly astounding, and I keep reminding myself how fortunate I am to have been selected as one of the 27 drivers. This group is the top driver from all over Japan, who have been raised to for racing since young age. Nearly everyone has done several seasons of go-karts followed by a few seasons of formula cars. The age of the drivers is between 17 and 24.

Nissan, Toyota, and Honda are extremely serious about the series and are spending an incredible amount of money to develop the next Formula One Champion out of Japan.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Preparing for Formula Challenge Japan

Two days ago I went to Suzuka Technical Center to get a seat mold made for the Formula Challenge Japan open-wheel car and to test-fit the Takata harness.

This was the first time I saw the cars in person. They are amazing - the entire car is made of carbon fiber and the aerodynamic structures are obvious. The cockpit is very comfortable, and with left-foot braking and no-lift sequential shifting, this is my kind of car. The transmission is supposedly right out of F3, and is extremely durable.

I am now leaving for the Fuji Speedway for the March 3rd orientation followed by two days of testing, with 3 hours scheduled per day.


Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Japan: Here I come!

Since my last update in November, I've been back to Japan on two occasions for a few weeks at a time, and here's the main drift of events:

During my December trip, after a successful test with a Super Taikyu team, I am now on board to race a brand new NISMO-built Nissan Fairlady Z (Z33 350Z) race car in Class-3, against the likes of Mazda RX7, BMW M3, and Honda NSX. I am the co-driver for Maejima Shyuji, another Nissan enthusiast with an R34 Nissan Skyline GT-R Z-Tune among the stable of his cars. Mr. Maejima has nearly two decades of racing experience and is well-known for being fast and consistent, and I look forward to our first test with the 350Z (currently being built at NISMO) sometime in March.

The test was conducted at the Sugo circuit with a Toyota Altezza race car in the SNOW - and what an experience that was. I wonder what the traction coefficient was on that day. The scariest part was the final corner which has a very large radius and is extremely long and uphill. I only had to drive 7 laps, including the out-lap and the in-lap, at which point the team decided to take me - I am not the most modest guy when it comes to my driving ability, but I have to say I was very pleasantly surprised that I could impress them that fast in a car I've never driven on a track I've never driven.

The schedule for the Super Taikyu series in 2007 is as follows:

Series Date
TEST 3/20

Rd.1 4/21-22

Rd.2 5/12-13
Rd.3 7/14-16
(Tokachi 24hr)
Rd.4 8/04-05
(Fuji Speedway)
Rd.5 9/01-02

Rd.6 10/27-28
Rd.7 11/10-11
(Twin Ring Motegi)

More information on the series is available here: http://www.so-net.ne.jp/s-taikyu/.

As the race car itself is not yet complete, we do not have pictures, but it will look like this Ings+1 Z33 350Z in our class:

I paid a visit to NISMO, and they had some very nice cars on display:
This is the Group C car from the early 90's. It could generate over 8000 pounds of downforce and was over 1200 horsepower unrestricted. The weight? 2400 lbs. In theory, it could probably drive upside down at under 100mph.
This is one of the last, if not the last, R34 Nissan Skyline GT-Rs to compete in Super Taikyu. This one successfuly defeated the entire Porsche 911 GT3 horde in Class-1 in 2003 - GT-R's final season in Super Taikyu.

At the very end of my trip, I somehow managed to get myself stuck again as a speaker to a group of people I'd never met before - nor did I know I was speaking until I was inside the room.
Nearby the Narita Airport, there is a NATS technical institute - specializing in everything automotive, from fiberglass to fabrication, to race car maintenance and suspension setup.
I spoke to the students, who are aspiring race car mechanics and drivers themselves, about the world of racing - the importance of preparation as a team and the mental and physical readiness and training as a driver. The campus is very cool with a plethora of tools and knowledgable instructors.
NATS even has a team of the equivalent of the U.S.'s Formula SAE competition, which is pictured above.

After coming back to Los Angeles in the beginning of December, I caught up on some work and spent the holidays with my family in Kentucky - then things got interesting:
I flew back from Kentucky to Los Angeles on the 5th of January to immediately fly to Detroit on the 6th for the Detroit Auto Show. The show was great as always and many interesting developments took place. I flew from Detroit to L.A. on the evening of the 9th - packed and flew out to Narita airport in Japan on the morning of the 10th for the Tokyo Auto Salon, effectively putting me out of town for over a month total. January 10th was my 21st birthday, and I spent the entire day on the plane above the Pacific Ocean, to arrive in Japan on the evening of the 11th. I did finally get to blow out a candle on a birthday cake though - Thank you Mr. Tamura!

My first time at the Tokyo Auto Salon was a blast, although I had to go from meeting to meeting regarding the Super Taikyu racing, which did not leave me much time to see the show.

NISMO showed a very cool new Z33 Fairlady Z race car for competition against the Porsche 911 GT3 Cup cars in the Class-1 of Super Taikyu. It is the NISMO Type 380RS-Comeptition version, with a 3.8 liter VQ engine, pumping out over 400hp.

Then a few days later, I got a call from a friend of mine at Nissan congratulating me on getting accepted into the Formula Challenge Japan development program. I was certainly happy to hear it, but I had not yet been contacted directly and was a bit curious as to how he knew before me. Ah, the Japanese world goes 'round in interesting ways indeed.

The FCJ program is a true one-of-a-kind development series in the world right now. JRP office, which is responsible for the Formula Nippon series (V8 600hp, call it F2), got Toyota and Honda to consolidate their development formula series in a spec competition class, and had Nissan join a formula series in a long time.

The cars are a complete spec Formula Renault 2.0 from Europe, but since the big three Japanese manufacturers compete with their own teams, the cars are labeled as "Formula Challenge" with no Renault badging. The drivers are mostly between 19-24 in age and get selected into the program. The top drivers from '06 season went to compete in F3.

(Machine Spec)

Chassis [FC106]
Length 4125mm
Height 954mm
Width 1674mm
Gross weight
Engine FCJ-Spec Engine (Inline 4 cylinders)
Displacement 2,000cc
Max HP
200hp/7,200rpm(With catalytic converter)
Tires Dunlop
(F:180/530 R13、R:240/570 R13)
Wheels Enkei

Actually, Kimi Raikkonen competed in Formula Renault 2.0 in England in 2001 as a 21 year old and went to Formula One the following year. I am feeling lucky.

18 races
Rd. R1
Location Suzuka





(2 hours practice on Thursday and 1.5 hours practice on Friday)
(Testing Schedule)
Rd. T1 T2 T3
3/4-5 3/13-14 4/25-26
Location Fuji

(3 hours per day practice time during test days)

The really cool thing about the FCJ schedule is that the first race is with Super GT (formerly JGTC) at Suzuka on March 17/18. What is wonderful furthermore is that I will have 12 hours of testing time in the car, including 6 at Suzuka before the opening weekend.
Then, only a few days later on the 20th I will be back to the official test day for Super Taikyu to Suzuka, driving the 350Z.

I get so excited just by thinking about all of this. I will spend nearly every weekend from March through November in race cars either racing or testing.

So.... let's talk about the Nissan Skyline GT-R in the United States. The car looked incredible for the season finale at Laguna Seca in October of 2006.
Click here for the Laguna Seca Nissan Skyline GT-R gallery

But looks only get you so far in racing.... the car was better than ever before with regarding to suspension setup, we also eliminated our brake overheat issues from before. The car ran sound at a test a few days prior to arriving to Laguna Seca, which we conducted at Willow Springs.

At Laguna Seca however, we ended up blowing two engines - one on Friday and one on Sunday during the race. It was a huge dissappointment, as I was just a few seconds away from being mid-pack with barely any track time. I am convinced now however more than ever: The Skyline GT-R is a competitive car even in today's level of World Challenge GT. We know exactly what needs to be done and who can do it.

Racing the GT-R, despite the poor results on the car due to the many mechanical issues we experienced, lead me to all of the opportunities in Japan - a ride in the Super Taikyu series with a brand new factory race car and a full-blown development formula series - ensuring I get tired of being on the track instead of craving for time to practice in 2007.

But, I do wish to see the GT-R continue racing in the United States, especially because we did not exactly end it on a good note.


So, I'd like to ask all of you readers to spread the word to find an interested party to race this car in 2007. We have already gone through with the registration for World Challenge, and we will provide further development for the car and all support through C&R Racing in Indianapolis, IN. Bruce Ashmore of C&R and ARC, with decades of motorsports experience, including winning Group C cars, and Indy500 winning chassis, is the Team Director.

If you are interested in becoming involved as a driver or utilizing this extraordinary effort for media exposure as a sponsor, please contact me. In 2006, we reached millions of fans in the United States, and we have the paperwork to show you. This is an opportunity most of all because everything is already setup - the race car, the spare parts, the 75 foot race rig, and a world-class race team in Indianapolis.

So come on - I dare you - take part in the future of the GT-R in the United States. I am passing the torch over to you. You can bet I will be back in 2008 and then we will see what happens (I already have a good idea... but it's a secret.)

In the meantime, I am going to get my racing ducks in a row in Japan.

(Igor Sushko at a photoshoot at Fuji Speedway)