Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Annual Alfra Romeo Orque Advan Racing School at Fuji Speedway

This year Kasuya-san again invited me to instruct at the racing school he organizes every year at Fuji Speedway. Orque is a tuner for Italian cars, with primary focus on Alfa Romeos. Kasuya-san has been running the company for several years. Prior to that, he was a factory Toyota TOM'S and NISMO driver in various series including JGTC and Le Mans.

Orque Driving School 2009 at Fuji Speedway

We started with basic classroom instruction and immediately followed by hands-on exercises - slalom and braking. Ability to consistently brake at the tires' limit is as basic as it gets and is of course the most important to be able to begin to drive a car at its quickest.

Orque Driving School 2009 at Fuji Speedway

The students had a lot of sessions throughout the day to drive on the short course at Fuji Speedway, and Kasuya-san and I were available to jump into their own cars and have them experience the proper driving techniques and what they feel like directly from the passenger seat. We had many drivers who had zero prior track driving experience, but just like last year, every single student made huge leaps forward in his driving ability by the end of the day. The repetition of driving the student in their own car and then having the student drive it right after is so effective it's astounding. After each outing I would explain what I was doing and why, to specifically accommodate that car's characteristics.

Orque Driving School 2009 at Fuji Speedway

One of the drivers who got his first-ever experience on a race track was in his fifties, but by the end of the day, I would have never guessed that. And of course the joy on everyone's face was just contagious.

It's never too late to start ;-)

Orque Driving School 2009 at Fuji Speedway

Rd. 9 Super GT - Motegi Race

After a Saturday plagued with mechanical problems, we were hoping for a good Sunday.

In the morning warm-up session we confirmed that the clutch issue was resolved, but at the end, a rear brake caliper began to leak fluid and lose pressure.

The team did their best to fix the problem before the race.

I started the race but almost immediately the car began to lose pedal pressure and the rear was getting upset and squirmy under heave brakes.
I had to pit after a few laps. The team fixed the caliper issue in about 30 minutes and let Ito out near the end of the race to get some laps in and check the car.

All in all, a disappointing weekend after a mid-week test that gave everyone a lot of promise.

Once the team can get the mechanical issues sorted I think the car could show solid competition next year.

This officially ends my 2009 racing season.
I am already thinking about 2010 and am in touch with several top-level GT300 teams.
The battle for next season begins on the day following the season finale Sunday!

I am also beginning to learn more about opportunities in the United States. If you hear of anything interesting, do let me know!

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Super GT Qualifying

Porsche Boxter - Super GT GT300

The Wed/Thurs test went great with the car - we tried out a combination of two different Yokohama compounds and got the car to a good balance with a competitive time.

Porsche Boxter - Super GT GT300

Friday was a roll-in day to the track as we changed pits and got ready for the weekend.

For Saturday, we had 1 hour 45 minute free practice session in the morning followed by combined qualifying at noon (both drivers pass the minimum time) and then knockdown Q1 (10 mins), Q2 (7 mins), and Q3 (7 mins) sessions.

For morning practice, the plan was to test out two softer compounds to see if they would last the race duration and to figure out the qualifying setup/tires.

Unfortunately, a clutch problem allowed me only 2 laps in the morning practice. Within the two laps I knew the direction in which to take the setup to work with the softer tires, and we proceeded with those changes.

Porsche Boxter - Super GT GT300

Then qualifying came, and at this point we knew that the clutch was still going to be a problem due to some circumstances. We just had to muscle through it. I posted a time in 1 lap and got my partner, Ito, in the car and he had struggle with a slipping clutch but did pass the standard time threshold.

There was enough time until Q1 to get the drivetrain cooled down again and go for the attack, and we knew that Q2 would not be possible as it was right after Q1 with not enough time to allow the car to cool.

The objective was simply to get to the top 16 out of 22 to pass Q1 and start the race in 16th.

But before Q1, the race officials came by to check the car's compliance for the air restrictor specified for this car in the rules. This was rather unusual timing for such a check, but we had to comply. The mechanics did their best to disassemble the air-box in time to get to the very deep-in-the-car air restrictor. It took them about 35 minutes to get it out. But at that point, we only had 15 minutes to the start of Q1 (10 minute long session). I barely got out of the garage with 2 minutes and 30 seconds to go, which meant I only had one lap for the attack.

I warmed up the tires as best as I could, but the Boxter being a mid-engine car, the fronts have always taken at least 2 laps to get up to operating temp during our tests.

With just one warm up lap, it was not enough, and as I went into the brake zone at turn one I had a strong front lock up that cost me time, and as the tires continued to gain temperature, the grip was getting better throughout the lap, but the lap time was just not enough to get us in the top 16 to continue into Q2. We needed at least 3 laps to post a competitive time.

Being forced to qualify on cold tires is rough!

Hopefully the clutch engagement problem will be solved by tomorrow morning's practice session so we can at least do a little bit of setup tweaking before the race.

The race should be 48 laps (GT500 is 53 laps), so it's pretty short, so the only good chance we have of finishing significantly higher than our start position will be a no-tire-change strategy.

I will start the race with a full tank and go the maximum allowed 2/3 distance (32) laps and pass the car on to Ito, minimizing our refuel time to our practiced 16 second driver-change time. With that, we will hopefully make up around 30 seconds on most other teams that do plan to change tires. Our tire compound will be harder than the rest, but if I can keep the avg race lap time to about 1 second below the top runners we still have a chance.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Getting ready for Super GT Motegi

#4 Bomex Lian Porsche Boxter

I will be competing in the GT300 #4 Bomex Lian Porsche Boxter in the season finale for Super GT at Motegi on November 7/8. I will be developing the car for use with Yokohama tires as this car has been competing with Kumho for the last few years. It was raced just once this year at Suzuka as a shakedown and I was not there, but we have high hopes for its performance at Motegi.

Within the rules, the Porsche Boxter is a lower downforce / higher top-speed package, which should be advantageous for a track like Motegi - with many long straights and lots of stop-and-go corners.

The primary purpose of our testing on Wed/Thurs will be to tune the suspension to match the new Yokohama tires and maximize braking efficiency despite its short wheelbase. I have a few ideas so far.

I recently went to the Lian factory to get fitted in the seat and get a little familiar with the car.
#4 Bomex Lian Porsche Boxter
#4 Bomex Lian Porsche Boxter
Igor Sushko with #4 Bomex Lian Porsche Boxter

Check out the entry list for 2009 Motegi Super GT race.

If you happen to attend the race please do stop by!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

USAC Sprint Car test - Oval racing?!

Through my good friend Bruce Ashmore, a world-class racecar designer/engineer currently working out of Indianapolis, I had the good fortune of getting introduced to Ken Pierson.

Ken has been racing on ovals as a team owner for over 30 years and has - wait for it - 139 main event victories and 5 championships. One of the cars he races is a USAC Sprint Car. This car boasts an enormous V8 engine generating 750hp and weighs in at only 550kg (1300lbs). The end-result? Acceleration that is FASTER than Formula One! The rear tires are just ridiculously wide in an attempt to maximize traction. More on that attempt later....

Here's how they look when they fly by -

Pierson Racing Bos Sheet Metal USAC Sprint Car

I have never before driven on an oval, with the closest thing being the Motegi exhibition race in an N1 endurance Nissan 350Z set-up for road-racing. This fun event took place on the Motegi oval, with chicanes built in at the end of each straight, and in the RAIN...

So I prepared as well as I could, talking to drivers and engineers with experience with this kind of car.

All in all, I got about 50-60 laps on the 1/4 mile oval - where one lap is 12~13 seconds. Driving this monster is something else. I have never experienced the rush of acceleration that this car can deliver.

The sound is a little off in the video unfortunately.

Let me first describe the machine.
No clutch or flywheel, one-speed transmission, solid-rear-axle (no differential), staggered left and right tires, seating position is very upright with the driver almost on top of the steering wheel that is closer to being parallel to the ground than at the usual 90-degrees in road course cars.

The end result? Absolutely the biggest rush I have ever felt! Each straight was probably just a little over 100 yards, since the entire oval was only 1/4 mile. But, the due to the power delivery of this engine, there is no point on the track where you could actually put all of that torque down without lighting up the tires - including at the end of the straight going around 100mph.
Think about it - coming out of the corner, concrete everywhere, adding in the throttle and the car just bolts forward, jerking you back, but you can only continue to add throttle at a pace to where even after going around 100mph, the car is still traction limited. I've definitely spun those rear tires plenty of times in an attempt to inch toward that 100% throttle. NOT POSSIBLE on a track this short!

My thanks go to Scott Pierovich and Kevin Urton for helping me understand the car and how to drive it. Scott raced in the Sprint Car that weekend and finished in 3rd place on the podium. Kevin, now retired, boasts an incredible career of having won over 100 races both of asphalt and dirt.

Here's a video of the Saturday night rolling start for the USAC Sprint Car race:

I continued to get faster every session I went out as I got more comfortable with the car, and now I cannot wait to get in it again! I've had a chance to think over all of the dynamics of the car.
One of the biggest things that did not click initially - the left-right stagger. The fact that the circumference of the tires is smaller on the left side of course means that the neutral state of the car is turning left, not going straight. This makes the cornering easier, but the disconnect I had was how that affects the available traction - both for braking and acceleration. Normally, in a car that is symmetrical, maximum brake/acceleration traction is available when the car is pointing straight with no steering input. In a staggered car however, the car's neutral state with maximum longitudinal traction is actually when the car is turning at that exact angle when the steering wheel is straight - which occurs twice during the corner - as the steering wheel is released from essentially turning right during the straight, and then when it is getting unwound but the car is still turning at the exit.
I was just throwing the car into the corner to where I was not losing any time at the entry and the middle, but I was still down by several hundred engine revs compared to Scott at the end of each straight - because of my conservative initial throttle application while the car is still turning, coming out of the corner. THAT is when the car has maximum traction for acceleration! Well.. that and I did not want to stick Ken's car into the wall on my first-ever drive on an oval. Probably would have left a sour taste for everyone.

Ken Pierson and Pierson Racing Bos Sheet Metal USAC Sprint Car

I am hoping that next up is another test in the Sprint Car, with Ken's blessings, at Irwindale 1/2 mile track in November.

Where is all of this going? Ken Pierson and Bruce Ashmore are involved with the Silver Crown series and the next-generation Gold Crown - a new series slated to debut in 2011. The Silver Crown car is very similar to the Sprint Car, but with an extended wheelbase to accommodate a larger fuel tank for longer races, and another 100hp, just for kicks.

I have had the most fun pressing on the throttle in this monster and just waiting for it launch off into space at every straight. Thank you Ken!
Ovals - here I come.

Visit Bos Sheet Metal for any A/C and heating needs in the Sacramento area!

Visit Ashmore Design for information on Bruce Ashmore and the Gold Crown Series.

The Gold Crown Concept

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.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Lola F3 with turbo 300hp engine and Karting

A few months ago I had a chance to experience an F3 car at Infineon Raceway. But this one was no ordinary F3! The engine comes straight out of a Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution, tuned to over 300hp. The turbo gives the engine so much torque that even in third gear you could make the car stand still with white smoke.

The performance of the car was incredible. To get maximum braking out, you have to press down on the brake pedal with over 1200 lbs of pressure, and up to 1500 lbs.
Even in a 3rd gear corner, the peak cornering G was close to 3.0. The straight is rather short at Infineon Raceway, but the car got to over 130mph after a dead-stop final corner.

Man! Did it feel great to be in a bigger car with real horsepower.

Photos by David Reite.
Igor Sushko in Lola F3
Igor Sushko in Lola F3
Igor Sushko in Lola F3

Here is my onboard footage of one-lap around Infineon. Pole position!

Here is an onboard lap at the New Tokyo Circuit in a shifter kart:

140 km/h on the straight.

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。

Monday, March 30, 2009

2009 Season - Super GT Rd 1 at Okayama

2009 Race Season

Igor Sushko in Super GT

The '09 racing season is here. A lot of things got decided quite late this year but in the end it all came together. For this year, I will be in Formula Challenge Japan (Formula Renault) again, in #6 Avanzza x Bomex car and finally - Super GT GT300!
In GT, I am with Ishimatsu / Arktech Motorsports #111 Porsche 911 GT3 RSR.

This last weekend was the season opener at Okayama International Circuit. This is the first Porsche racecar I had ever been in and have been excited about it ever since the ride was confirmed in early March. The week preceding the weekend was a heavy schedule -

Sunday - Super Taikyu test at Motegi with Sequential Endless Mitsubishi Lancer Evo VIIII - last year's Class-2 champions. The test ended prematurely since there was a burning Porsche GT3 Cup in the tunnel at turn 5 (sector 2) during my first flying lap, with me having to return to the pits and ending the run. Despite that, my Sector 1 was rather good and hopefully I will get a chance to drive the car for the team sometime this year. Maybe Tokachi 24hr?

Tuesday - Karting at New Tokyo Circuit with Manabu Orido-san in a 125cc shifter kart - over 2 hours of clean driving time made my body ache for the next couple of days. The new engine was so fast we hit over 100mph on this short track's straightaway.

Wednesday - Fuji test in the GT300 Porsche RSR - due to some trouble only got to drive the car for 8 laps but I felt pretty comfortable and was not far off the veteran driver Tsubobayashi-san. On the final lap of my session in the car, I continued to push the car into large slides in entries and exits of slow corners to get more feel of the weight balance of a rear-engined vehicle and how it behaves. As I was incrementally increasing the drift angle, I finally spun at turn 13 - a slow and safe corner.
Igor Sushko in Super GT

Thursday - Drove Kubo-san's Super Taikyu-spec Honda S2000 at the Tsukuba 1000 track the entire day. Thank you so much Kubo-san! This was a private event with Kageyama Masami-san, my FCJ advisor and also NISMO's GT500 Champion, instructing just a handful of people - way cool.

Friday - Left for Okayama in my car at 3 am.

Sat/Sun - My first-ever GT race weekend!

Our team does development for Kumho tires, which is really exciting as I have not yet been involved in tire testing.

Kumho Tires

With the new schedule format in Super GT, we barely have any test time before qualifying - 90 minutes, so after Tsubobayashi-san tried out a couple of tire compounds and did basic setup changes I finally got a chance to drive the car a bit more - 7 more laps.

Porsche 911 GT3 RSR at Okayama in Super GT

Then qualifying came and I got about 8 more laps in on used tires after Tsubobayashi-san went for the time attack on new tires and qualified for 17th on the grid.

The weather forecast looked rainy for Sunday, which was a good turn for us since Kumho had not yet had a chance to develop the right tires for the 911's weight balance, giving us a very small chance in dry conditions for this race.

Igor Sushko in Porsche 911 GT3 RSR at Okayama in Super GT

On Sunday morning, we had time for a few laps and final setup tweaks for the wet race. This was my first time driving the car in the wet, and it actually felt pretty good and stable.

Tsubobayashi-san was the starting driver for the 77 lap race. He continued to gain positions before the pitstop and we were in 12th when I got in the car after the pitstop. The driver-change is actually relatively easy in the Porsche compared to many cars so we only needed to run through it several times beforehand on Saturday to get it down to under 20 seconds.

Igor Sushko in Porsche 911 GT3 RSR at Okayama in Super GT

I got a new set of wets for my stint and got on my way. The radio line somehow got pulled out of my helmet plug during the pitstop so my radio did not work from the get go. I tried to plug it back in but with gloves on and in race conditions it was impossible - not enough time even on the straights with the short gearing. The drinking water pump did not seem to work . With the heavy rain, it was pretty low visibility. The environment was pretty extreme - all this on cold tires in a car I had driven 15 laps to this point. The GT500 cars are ridiculously fast and in low visibility especially, they show up seemingly out of nowhere.

Igor Sushko in Porsche 911 GT3 RSR at Okayama in Super GT

I just buckled down and focused on my driving. It went great - my pace continued to pick up for the first 5 laps while I got the tires warm and then stuck to it. I was overly cautious with letting the GT500 cars pass making my time loss a bit more than necessary, but with this being my first GT race, it was important to ensure I did not get into any accidents.

Up until about 10 laps to go, my times continued to go up into the 1:49:xx as the rain weakened and we were in 11th position.

While on the front straightaway in 5th gear, the transmission buckled before the braking zone putting me in neutral, at which point I got into a car-saving mode and tried to get the car back to the pits, but the location of the failure was pretty bad - one entire lap to go to actually get back to the pits. As I was cautiously cruising back, I was left with nothing but neutral by the time I got to the uphill Atwood turn, and the car came to a stop.

Despite this, because we reached the lap threshold for race completion, we still placed 17th. My times were actually only about 0.5 second off of the Lexus IS350 on Kumho tires and the pace at the end of the race was pretty similar to the Taisan #26 Porsche 911 GT3 RSR on Yokohama tires.

Although we did have a mechanical failure, with this kind of grip levels and toque, sometimes it is just unavoidable. I definitely feel comfortable in the car and am looking forward to round two at Suzuka next month.

Super GT is a different level of racing and I feel like the preparation over the last few years has definitely paid off. The necessity to hold narrow and wide focus in low visibility situation in an unfamiliar racecar on an unforgiving race track was paramount - and I pulled it off.

Igor Sushko

The Super GT Crowd

Congratulations to Bandoh Masataka (坂東正敬), Orido Manabu (織戸 学), and Kataoka Tatsuya (片岡 龍也) for winning the GT300 race in the WedsSport Bandoh Lexus IS350.
Visit Racing Project Bandoh and Orido.jp.

Team Bandoh won Okayama in GT300 - Orido Manabu

Next up is Formula Challenge Japan season opener at Fuji Speedway - going to the track on Tuesday night and will be there through Sunday.

Satoshi and his girlfriend made this awesome banner to commemorate my entry into Super GT GT300. Thank you Satoshi!!
Custom Banner - Igor Sushko