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All #FSBletters translated as of August 14th, 2022 - Chronological Order - Look Inside

Before reading these #FSBletters from the #WindofChange, please watch/listen to the following audio for the origin & context of these le...

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Finally - a podium finish!

#15 Okabe Jidosha Dixcel Nissan Z at Suzuka, 2008
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.
Igor Sushko

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

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

April 10th-20th : Fully immersed in Japanese motorsports

On April 10th, I left Yokohama for Okayama - a city 680km south-west, beyond Oasaka and Kyoto. There I watched the Super GT race and spent time primarily with the Bandoh Toyota Celica and interviewed Manabu Orido.

The Bandoh team has a long legacy in motorsports in Japan and Manabu Orido actually began has racing career around 15 years ago at this same company. For the next race, the team will debut a brand-new GT300 Lexus IS racecar - a car that is said to even have some Toyota F1's resources vested in it. But, more on that later.

The Bando website:

The GT300 #666 Bomex Avanzza Vemac team's Junichiro Yamashita is one of my sponsors for the FCJ series this year, as you can see the Bomex and Avanzza signage on the formula-car.
The #666 Team:

After spending the weekend in Okayama, I left for Osaka to visit the 5Zigen facility and met with Kinoshita-san (木下 正治) and also had a chance to sit down with his business development team to discuss internet strategy. 5Zigen looked to be an incredibly tightly-run operation with very smart people, and they are significantly more aware of the value of the internet than most companies in Japan.

I then briefly stopped by Kyoto, as it was the city I lived in at age 6 in 1992, and drove straight to Suzuka for our FCJ two-day test. The first day was in the dry and the second day was in a creek/lake. The rain was so severe that many turns had rivers and puddles at apexes and braking zones. Our times in these conditions were 25 seconds slower than in the dry. Driving a formula-car with an expectation to aqua-plane at 125mph at 130R was an experience. In some parts of the track, I had to zig-zag through a straight in order to avoid the big lakes. For this day, I was 13th out of 26 in overall lap time. Our race is on May 8th at Suzuka.

I got back to Yokohama on Thursday evening and then left for Motegi for the Japan Indy 300 IRL race to watch Danica Patrick win her first-ever race in IRL. The race was canceled on Saturday due to rain and moved to Sunday.

IRL #23 William Rast car driven by Townsend Bell.

A friend of mine, Mike Fink, works for the #23 William Rast car, which gave me an opportunity to really experience the event from within. They even let me sit in the car. I'd love to race an IRL car one day.

Here is a video of a pitstop I took:

Being immersed in motorsports this way sure is a great way to live.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

FCJ Rd.1/2 at Fuji Speedway

I have been extremely focused during the pre-season on mental imagery training. As a precursor to the FCJ season opener, I took it a step further on April 1st and attended a meditation session at a temple in Kita-Kamakura, about 40 minutes from where I live. In Japanese, it's called "Zazen," and the temple, Engakuji, is extremely historic and renown in Japan. One man I met has been attending the temple services for close to 20 years and has lineage to the Japanese Shogun - Tokugawa Ieyasu, his last name also being Tokugawa, and his wife actually buried in this temple. The Zazen service took place from 5:30 am to 6:30 am, and I found it to be very useful and interesting.

The race week started on Thursday with two qualifying sessions along with the first race on Saturday and the second race on Sunday. I was struggling with getting a consistent lap, with difficulty in sector 2, which is from A-Corner through Hairpin, with 100R in-between. However, depending on the session, I was able to eliminate the sector 2 time loss only to see it appear in sector 3 - the very slow, uphill technical section of the track.

Doing this series now for the 2nd year, I have a good amount of experience with the car and the tracks on the schedule, and the data demonstrated my quickness during this weekend as well as last month's Fuji test, where I was able to post 12th-fastest time, with only a few hundreds-of-a-second loss to our professional series test driver - Hattori Naoki-san, who has even had a stint in Formula 1 in the past.

The FCJ field this year appears to be even more competitive than in 2007. Honda and Toyota drivers especially have enjoyed thousands of kilometers of testing during the off-season.

My qualifying did not go great - with 21st and 23rd for the two races. One extreme positive out of the weekend was my improved ability to drive fast on cold tires and pulling off very good standing starts - I passed around 6 cars in the first lap of the first race and 9 cars in the second race.

In race 1 however, I had very minor contact with a car in front of me in the slowest corner of the track - the Dunlop complex, and I had to limp for the remainder of the race without the right half of the front wing. All in all, I finished 22nd in Round 1 and 18th in Round 2 out of the 26 car field.

Next objective is to manage mental pressure more effectively by turning it into focus but ensuring that my body is relaxed while doing so - I could feel the tightness in my muscles and was not able to get into the appropriate mental zone.

Now, I have changed gears to prepare for the FCJ test coming up in a week at Suzuka.

FCJ Fuji 第一戦/第二戦 4/6/08

先月のFujiのFCJ公式テストではトップから1秒以内で非常に気持ちよく走れたんですが、このレースウィークは自分にかけたプレッシャーをうまく扱うことができなく、余分な緊張感で自分なりな走りができませんでした。木曜日からのテストをはじめ、金曜日もサーキットのA-コーナーやヘアピンの問題を解決出来れば、Dunlopコーナー以降のテクニカルセクターがうまく走れなくなったり、とても苦労しました。 今の問題は何よりも精神的であり、頭をきちんとまとめて落ち着いた走りを出来ればどんどん上に上がれると思います。
一回目の予選は21番手、二回目は0.2秒落ちて23番手でした。 土曜日の決勝は15週のレースで、一週目のコールドタイヤでよいスタートも決めてどんどん抜きにいったんですが、Dunlopコーナーの進入で中に入ったところで前にいた車が思う通りの加速をせずちょっとだけフロントウィングが当たってしまって、そのまま右側の半分が取れてしまいました。コックピットからはそんな低いところのダメージは見えないため、完全になくなっていたとはびっくりですが、レース中の高速コーナーのダウンフォースの減少のためのアンダーステアははっきり感じていました。そのためA-コーナーからヘアピンの出口までに1.2~1.5秒のそんが出てて、一週目で稼いだ位置を少しずつとなくしてなんとか22番手でフィニッシュ。

日曜日のレースは前の日よりも後ろの23番スタートでしたが、うまいスタートを切って、事件なく、一週目で14番まで上がりました。21週で数台と激しいレースをしましたが、一コーナーの侵入でほかの車と争っていた千代勝正がリアミラーに非常に高い速度で一番インからブレーキを仕切れてないところが見えた為、僕はクリップをつかないラインど普通以上に減速をして彼が中のスペースをそのままコーナーの出口まで直線でオーバランしてもらいたかったんですが、彼の左前のホイールが僕の右後ろのホイールに強いいきよいであたってかなりスピンしそうでしたが、それを押さえてそのまま問題なく走り続くことができました。 しかしなかなかよいペースで走れず18番でゴールでした。

今年の僕の担当のアドバイザーである田中哲也さんが木曜日に5Zigenの木下社長に紹介してくれて、それ以降レースのグリッドウォークの時に木下さんが両回とも応援しに来てくれました。 今年は確実にFCJで納得できる成績を出しますので、皆様の応援もお願いします。

FCJ Fuji Photo Gallery