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

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Thursday, May 28, 2009

2009 FCJ Round 5/6 - Twin Ring Motegi

Wed - May 27
We had 4 hours of testing today. On the 2nd session, I actually posted the fastest time out of all competitors - my first such feat in the FCJ Series.
But that did not last long - by the end of the day, I dropped down to 0.8 seconds below the all-day fastest driver.

Thurs - May 28
Another 4 hours. We actually had time for lunch today, which was nice. My fastest was 1:53.9, 0.9 seconds off the top, putting me at 13th out of 18 drivers for the day. This competition is tight.

Fri - May 29
4 more hours of testing! The weather was nuts. On again and off again rain - anything from drizzle to absolute downpour. It was awesome - started one session on slicks and then the rain began to drizzle, and more.. and more. But then it stops, and the warm temperature and the 18 cars on the track dry it off almost immediately in places. Every turn I approach is in a different condition then before - at some parts of the track it rains while in others it doesn't, as the clouds move with the wind. So, as I approach each turn, I have to feel how much water there is on the braking line before getting to it. Seeing if there are any new drops hitting the visor is the biggest indicator. One moment, clear visor, next moment, it's getting hit by water like crazy! Really have to become one with the car to feel the surface underneath the tires. A ton of cars went off or spun out, lots of yellow flags waving around. In the last session, I ended up 4th in these mixed conditions, although at the end it was nearly dry again.

Saturday - May 30
Qualifying and Race #5

For Q1, I was 0.7 seconds behind pole, putting me in 12th place.
For Q2, which was interrupted about halfway with heavy rain, I got 14th position.

The first race was nothing spectacular - I got several good passes in on the first lap - but then could not get up to a good pace - consistently driving close to a second behind the pace of the leading pack. I finished 14th.

Sunday - May 31

I woke up to a pleasant sight of rain. Today's race was 17 laps. I was struggling with understeer at corner-entry, which I later found was due to a slight miscommunication I had with the mechanic in adjusting pre-race tire pressures once we were on the grid. But the race went well - as the track began to dry slowly over the entire race distance, my lap times continued to shrink and I was catching up with the cars up ahead. I was in 10th position for a large part of the race after having started 14th. The championship points leader, Naoya Gamou, had a poor start, so he ended up right behind me for the 2nd half of the race. The two of us were closing in on the 8th- and 9th-place pack at about a second per lap, but the race time was running out. As we were dicing it out at almost every turn, I finally made a strategic miss - coming out of the final turn onto the main straightaway, he was going to get in my slip, so I went to the inside to protect turn 1, but the simple fact that the inside line would be way more wet and slippery somehow escaped me. As we got into the brake zone right next to each other, I ended up spinning after locking all 4 tires as I hit a patch of track that was even more wet near the apex. I quickly recovered, losing only 8 seconds, but that caused me to lose 2 positions. My race ended in 12th place but it was definitely lots of fun and I felt satisfied with my performance.

Visit the photo gallery from Motegi.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

2009 FCJ Round 3/4 - Suzuka Circuit

May 13-17, 2009

We got in to Suzuka on Tuesday and had a ton of track time between Wednesday and Friday, getting in over 10 hours in 3 days.

This track is so exhilarating to drive!
Especially on old tires. With the budget cuts in the series, we are getting less tires this year. For the first two days (7 hours) we get to use 2 old sets from the previous Fri/Race and one new set. So Wednesday was exclusively used tires, and then we got to run the new tires for Thursday.

130R, the 6th gear, full throttle, left-turn has been exactly that in the past - full throttle at 150mph. But on these tires that came from the Fuji race, where the tire wear is radically different, it was not to be! I must have run wide while going full throttle 10 times, every time my heart skipping a beat. Accordingly, the times were not that great during these sessions either.

I got things back together with the new set that came on Thursday and was somewhere mid-pack.

Then on Friday, we got another new set and got 3rd place overall for the day (4 hours). This is so far my best position in a practice, which was great, and now all I had to do was recreate my performance in qualifying the following day.

Igor Sushko at Suzuka

I woke up to a pleasant rain on Saturday - I love rain. It was not too strong, but definitely meant the track would be wet.

Igor Sushko at Suzuka

Then Q1 came. Some drivers actually decided to go on the wets, but most stuck with the slicks. I went out on slicks and as I was getting as much heat in them as possible, I also wanted to get good position on the track. There was one car directly in front of me but a good gap beyond. As I was climbing the Dunlop turn after the Esses, my rear just went out and I spun out on to the sand. With the help of the corner workers, I got back on the track, but lost about 4 minutes out of the 15 minute qualifying session. Every flying lap, my times were going up like crazy as the tires got heat into them - 5 seconds, 5 seconds, 4 seconds faster than the previous lap as each lap passes by. But then I ran out of time - most got their best time on the 7th and final lap. Due to my spin, I only had 5 laps, and the result was a 14th place grid.

Igor Sushko at Suzuka

The Rd. 3 race was in the wet and as is usual with our series, especially at Suzuka, there were barely any position changes, and I finished in 13th.

The Sunday Rd. 4 race was feeling good though - the track was drying up quick but not completely dry just yet. At the start, I had an awesome run to turn 1 and into turn 2, passing around 4-5 cars already. But then the #13 car in front of me hit the rear of the #15 car while locking the front brakes, which caused #15 to spin. As it was spinning in front of me from inside to the outside (in what is essentially a long right-hand turn), I went low and successfully avoided #15. As soon as I passed this car though, the #13 car was going around on the outside and started spinning behind the #15, but from the outside to the inside, collecting me in the side of the nose. It was a racecar guillotine! So, my race unfortunately ended after the first 2 turns and I parked the car in a save place on the grass.

Visit the photo gallery from Suzuka

Sunday, May 10, 2009

2009 FCJ Round 1/2 - Fuji Speedway

This year's field in Formula Renault in Japan has shrunk to 18 entries from last year's 26, but the level competition appears to be higher from the get-go compare to the previous year.
I got in to the circuit on Tuesday and we had nearly 10 hours of track time from Wednesday through Friday.

I have not been in a formula car since last year's season finale at Sugo, and getting back in the car felt awesome.

Our tires for Wednesday were unknown used from car calibration sessions that the series had before the start of the season, so there were some gaps in times, but once Thursday came and we got a fresh tire set, the entire field got really tidy and close together time-wise.

On Thursday, during the end of one session, I got a few red sectors (fastest of the session), but ended up with the 9th fastest overall time of 1:42.4.

But then Friday did not go so well - with the Formula Nippon and F3 cars running on various tires (Bridgestone and Hankook), I did not anticipate the drastic balance shift to understeer, and my adjustments in tire pressure were not enough. It was all in 100R - I could not get it down full throttle with the nasty understeer.

Igor Sushko in Formula Renault

Fuji Speedway has three sectors. Sector 1 is pretty simple - the straightaway and turn 1. But Sector 2 and Sector 3 are drastically different in corner characteristics - Sector 2 has only fast corners (A-Corner followed by 100R, followed by the Hairpin), and Sector 3 is made of a a whole bunch of 2/3 gear corners. So setting up the car balance is always a big sacrifice - either make it work for Sector 2 or Sector 3. With other cetegories, the gain/loss is pretty even, but with FCJ - it all has to be in Sector 2. It's easy to lose 0.5 second by a small lift when there is understeer in 100R since the cars have little power and the 2nd part of the turn is uphill. 100R lasts for over 6 seconds in 5th gear (120mph+), and it feels great when you get some oversteer to get it go full throttle and still make the turn.

Fuji Speedway

My inability to get the balance right continued into qualifying on Saturday - the rear tires just did not get up in pressure at the pace they had during the previous days and there is no time within the qualifying session to pit to readjust it. For Q2, I added more pressure to the rears but it still did not work - leaving me with understeer to fight in 100R.

For Round 1, I was 15th on the grid with 1 second behind pole.
All of my practice starts out of the pits went great, but then ... we go through the warm up lap and get to our grids for the standing start, but as I am approaching mine and press on the clutch while braking and staying in 1st gear, the car just dies - the clutch did not get engaged due to some clearance issues, effectively stalling the car. I fired it back up after green and went on to chase the field. My pace was not bad - same as those that finished in 6-10 positions, but with the delayed start, I could only manage to pass a few cars and finished 15th.

I started 16th for Round 2. The team adjusted the clutch clearance the previous day, so that was out of the way.
I got off to a very good start and picked up about 4 positions in the first few corners, but then made some untimely misses and drove in a train with several other cars for the rest of the race, finishing 14th.

Igor Sushko in Formula Renault

Next up is Suzuka. My best results last year came from Suzuka, so I am looking forward to it. The track is long and technical, and is an absolutely blast to drive.

As of now, I am stuck with carrying an extra 10kg in body weight in this series, since the rules set the minimum driver weight including all gear to 70kg. The gear weighs 5kg, and I am 75kg, for a grand total of 80kg. The total weight of the car, fuel, and driver is 590kg, so this probably equates to about 30-40kg in Super GT GT300. I am always training and have 8% bodyfat, but have so far been unable to drop the weight in the last 2 years.

For this year, I need to eliminate driver errors and ensure I drive each and every race to the level of my own satisfaction, and it definitely starts with the qualifying. It would be great to get on the podium a few times.

FCJ 2009 富士 開幕

2009年のFCJの開幕はFuji Speedwayで開かれました。 今年は参加台数が18まで減ったんですが、競争レベルは最高!


Fujiはセクターが3つあって、セクター1は別に単純で直線と1コーナーなんですが、セクター2とセクター3は車のバランスはいずれかに合わせて、もうひとつの方は我慢して走る感じです。 ほとんどの状況ではFCJの場合は2セクターの100Rにあわせなくてはならないです。 5速(190km/h+)で走るコーナーで6秒以上続くので、少しでもアクセルを抜くとタイムロスがその分激しく、ずっと続いてしまう。 よって100Rは結構オーバーステアが出ないと全開は無理。 そのバランスで3セクターはリアのトラクションをとても丁寧に扱って、低い速度で少しでもハンドルを切る料とブレーキを踏む料を減らして、アクセルを0.1秒でも早く、ゆっくり踏むことが勝負です。

100Rに前後のタイヤ圧のバランスが合ってないとあっという間に0.5秒ぐらいそんしてしまう。 土曜日の予選はそういう状況になってしまい、悪い流れのレースウィークになった。
予選1はリアが全然上がらなく、100Rがとても強いアンダーだった。 予選2までには10分の間があるためプレッシャー調整ができる。 しかし、そこで、もうタイヤは完全ニューではない。 そこからのプレッシャーの上がり方もちょっと遅くなって、リアは得に上がりすぎるとグリップの落ちが非常に激しい。 予選1で路面でフロントは思い通りに上がってリアが上がり足りなかったから、その分調整をしたのだが、最終的にはまだリアが足りなかった。

テスト中は数回だけスタートシムレーションをしてクラッチの切りが良かった。 しかし実際のレーススタートになってびっくり! グリッドに付く前に何回かのスタート練習でクラッチの設定でペダルを一番奥まで押しても1速のままで切れなくてグリッドで止まれなく車が進みすぎてストールしてしまい。なんとかスタートできたが、ビリになってしまいみんなを追う展開になった。 なんとか他の車に追いついて、いいペースで走れたが、結局15番手のままフィニッシュ。 レース中のペースは6~10番手あたりと同じぐらいだったため得に悔しかった。

Rd.2は16番手スタート。 前日はレース後クラッチペダルの設定を変更して、ペダルトラベルを深くし、二度とクラッチディスクが焼きつかないようにした。
スタートはかなりうまく行って、順位をいくつも最初の数コーナーで上げた。 その後は前の集団とちょっと差がついていた為スリップが使えなく、抜いたばかりの車が何台か僕を逆抜きし、とてもタイミングの悪いミスをしてしまい、それ以上勝負できないまま、レース終了。 14位で完走。

次は鈴鹿のレースです。 去年も最も良い結果が鈴鹿で二回とも出たので、とても楽しみです。 サーキットが長く、テクニカルなので、非常に楽しいし、やはりドライバーの腕の差もでます。

FCJのルールで装備品付最低ドライバー重量が70kgなんですが、装備品は5kgで僕の体重が75kg。。。合わせて80kg。 FCJ車体のドライバーと燃料込みの重量が約590kgなので、馬力と重量を考えて割合的にはGT300の+30kg~+40kgぐらいです。

そして来年はF3で勉強をしていきたい。 レースはどんな状況でも結果が全て。