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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。