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Sunday, October 25, 2009

FCJ Season Finale - Rd. 13/14 at Sugo

Igor Sushko in #6 Avanzza x Bomex FCJ

On September 26/27 weekend, we had the final two races for the 2009 season in FCJ.
Sugo is a high-speed, high-guts track where one must pair aggressiveness with smoothness, and sometimes the end-result is being in the wall - very little run-off and a lot of uneven places on the surface with varying degrees of grip.

The three days brought about fantastic excitement.

On Friday practice, we had three sessions of one hour each. Seeing how this was the very last practice, we figured to do a little experiment that would otherwise be frowned upon.
Since I am 10 kg (22 lbs) overweight with the FCJ Series rules, I figured it'd be good to run without the handicap by taking out the fuel to see what happens. The conditions were good for the experiment since I could eliminate tires and track variables by comparing the time differentials and data in acceleration/braking forces over two sessions - one session full tank and then the second session with less fuel.
Igor Sushko at Sugo in Sendai, Japan

We were able to take out 7 kg of fuel (15 lbs) for the final third session. With all things being equal, I was over 0.5 seconds faster.
The car was so alive - the rear felt so much more fluid and responsive to all of my inputs, and it was a blast to drive. Of course nothing can be done with this info, but I figured it's good to have - 22 lbs is probably around 7/10ths of a second at this track. We run 1:22:xx lap times since it's pretty short.

For qualifying, I got 13th for Q1 and 12th for Q2. The 0.7 second weight handicap would have placed me in 2nd position for both sessions.

Sugo Track Map

The race in the afternoon got off to a good start - I passed 4 cars by the entry to turn 4... as I got on my brakes, I caught a car still accelerating in the back in my left-side mirror, after that instant, I had to get back to being busy dealing with the cars next to- and around- me. Then I braced myself, knowing the car in the back could very well hit me.
Sure enough, I felt a little hit from behind, and then the next moment was stunning - I saw a car pass right to the left of me at my height and continue to fly above diagonally over my car. I saw the entire bottom of #11 car from the front to the rear as it continued to climb up beyond my car. My car was still drivable but I just parked it, knowing there was nothing to gain but possibly only more things to break.

After the crash

After the crash

After the crash

The tire marks that the #11 car left me by its right-front were about 4-5 inches away from my helmet on top of the left side of my cockpit. CRAZY.

Looking at the data, the driver of #11 got a bit too eager, and he broke later than is normally possible for that corner, but to add to that, on cold tires, and worse of all, on the very inside line on the left of the track where nobody ever drives, guaranteeing layers of dust and sand. Combine all that, and he ended up with a 25mph speed difference at the instant of hitting my car from the left rear.

On the Sunday race, I was starting 12th on the grid.
I got off to a good start from the line and got past three cars, getting to 8th position on the first lap. The entire duration of the ~40 minute race after that was rather uneventful as the car in front was not close enough for me to challenge and the car behind me was in the same kind of position relatively to me. The Sugo track is so narrow that, in reality, the only places for passing are braking into turns 1/2 and the back-straight.
I finished 8th. I made two small errors in turns 1 and 3 over the duration of the race where I lost a few tenths, but overall it was a good, solid race.

FCJ Racecar - Igor Sushko

Visit the FCJ Media Gallery for Rd 13/14 at Sugo.

I want to sincerely thank everyone that has helped me this year - all of our series sponsors, and my personal sponsors - Avanzza and Bomex.