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Sunday, September 05, 2010

Super GT GT300 - Suzuka Pokka 700KM Race - Pole Position!

Super GT Official Tire Test at Fuji (Attendance: Interestingly, by my eyeball count, the number was easily in the thousands, with crowding in the pit area)

Two weeks before the race, we tested new Yokohama Advan compounds and structures at Fuji Speedway - and the results were great - all thanks to Yokohama.

Super GT Rd.6 - Suzuka Pokka 700KM (Attendance: 33,000 people)

Now this was a completely different animal. Armed with new Yokohama tires, we were ready to roll. Beginning with the morning session on Saturday, we were 10th, with lots of room to improve, as I had to interrupt my attack on fresh tires to change settings to ensure we got everything done on time.

Igor Sushko - #26 Taisan Porsche | 2010 Super GT GT300

For this race, since it's 700km, we had a 3rd driver - Mitsuyama with us.

In the second session, we were comfortably in 2nd.
Qualifying was F1-type knockdown system. Top 16 from Q1 go to Q2, and Top 10 from Q2 proceed to Q1 for pole position fight. Each session is 10 minutes, which is good for 3 flying laps.

In Q1, we posted 2:08.3, for 3rd position. In Q2, we posted 2:08.3 again for 4th position, and in the Pole Position shootout Q3, we got 2:07.4, good for pole by a whole second!

The feeling was awesome! Finally.

Igor Sushko - Pole Position
Igor Sushko - #26 Taisan Porsche | 2010 Super GT GT300 Pole Position

Mitsuyama started the race, but the tires degraded a bit quicker than anticipated and he ended up having to pit 11 laps earlier than scheduled at lap 19. He had a minor collision with #25 Porsche in the Gyaku-bank corner, but it was only cosmetic, like the one I had back at Fuji. He pitted and I got into the car for my 30 lap stint - harnesses: done, radio connection: done, coolsuit connection: done, drink connection: done, main switch: on, clutch: in - ready to roll. But.... I am not getting the signal from the team to go... I see mechanics running around and in the mirror they are applying duct tape to the left rear (where our car got hit). It felt forever - and it was... 30 seconds.

Finally I am given the order to go and so I do, with plenty of wheel spin to get the tires up to temp asap.
With this time loss, I was about 13th at the pitout. It was an interesting stint - as the crew chief got on the radio after the first complete lap and said "Igor! That lap was too fast! We need the tires to last 30 laps. You need to slow down." (but of course in Japanese) I did already have that in mind after seeing the previous stint end in just 19 laps - but I made even more extra care of not using up all the grip of the tires early by avoiding any sliding of the rear, and actually going just a little slower and smoother than I'd like in the Esses. The Esses consist of 5 turns - left, right, left, right, and left - one immediately followed by the next, with mid-corner speeds ranging from 120mph to 75mph - which just builds a ridiculous amount of heat in especially the rear tires in case of our setup. With regards to sliding - whenever the tires have too much slip-angle - the difference between the angle of where the tires point and where the car is actually going, an extreme amount of heat gets built due to the tires' resistance, which leads to shorter life.

Igor Sushko - #26 Taisan Porsche | 2010 Super GT GT300

Still, I steadily passed cars and got up to 7th, with 27 seconds to the top at 44, giving us plenty of chances to get back up to top, especially since the race is so long.

Then on lap 27 of the stint, with just a few laps to go until my stint is over, a pack of GT500-class cars appear in the mirror and are eager to pass. At the entry into the 3rd S-turn (left-hander), I have #23 NISMO GT-R diagonally to my right, so I take a long apex at the very edge of the track - all the way on the zebra, to make it easier for him to pass me on the right. He goes for it, but before the pass is done, he swings his car to the left, and his left rear hits my right front. He spins, and my front suspension arm breaks, all the while I am trying to avoid hitting him as he is spinning in front of me.

I limp the car back to the pits. The awesome Taisan crew gets to work on fixing the car, but... our race is done.

It was a crazy weekend - from the incredible high of Pole Position, to the unfortunate crash on Sunday morning, to the crew fixing the car by race-time, to the loss of 30 seconds in the pits after running at the top, to regaining lots of that time and seeing a possible win again, and to getting taken out of the race by an overly eager maneuver by another car from another class....

But, next up is Fuji 300KM on September 12th. We've definitely got a good chance to repeat the pole and this time around - finish the race - hopefully ahead of everyone.

Igor Sushko - #26 Taisan Porsche | 2010 Super GT GT300

Thursday, September 02, 2010

Super GT GT300 Fuji and Sugo Races

Super GT Rd.3 - Fuji Speedway 400KM (Attendance: 53,100 people)
Fuji Speedway
Our 3rd race of the season was held at Fuji Speedway. This is a track that heavily favors our car's characteristics - since the Taisan Porsche sacrifices downforce for higher top speed.

Igor Sushko in #26 Taisan Porsche | 2010 Super GT GT300

We had 1 hour and 30 minutes of practice/setup time before qualifying, and so I got in the car first to determine the direction of necessary setup changes. First lap out, the brakes clearly had a problem - the pedal would go to the floor and the total braking force was down and the pedal just continued to be unpredictable. I got back into the pits and our mechanics started checking things out. Unfortunately, this was not something that we could fix in a few minutes so we opted to continue testing. Despite this, I put the fastest lap time in at that time of the practice session of 1:44.9. The braking problem got progressively worse throughout the session but the setup that our team brought was really good - excellent balance, allowing us to run a consistent fast time.

After the test session ended, the team got on fixing the brake issue, which turned out to be a problem with suspension on the left rear.

Igor Sushko in #26 Taisan Porsche | 2010 Super GT GT300

Next came qualifying. The first qualifying session is more of another test session in Super GT since the drivers need to simply pass a time threshold. I ended up with a time of 1:44.4, which was just shy of getting us into top 10 for the Super Lap Battle.

I started the 400km race, and in my stint got up to 5th position, but stayed out the longest of all in our class (39 laps) for our strategy to work. The last several laps ended up hurting us since the left rear tire completely broke down to the point of the inside structure showing.

Igor Sushko in #26 Taisan Porsche | 2010 Super GT GT300

Then my co-driver Ueda got in the car, but the pit stop took longer than we hoped for as GT Officials required that duct tape applied to the right side of the car due to a minor collision that I had around lap 30 when ARTA Garaya pinched me as I was passing it into A-Corner, with a 1.5-second-per-lap faster pace.

My 2nd stint in the car after Ueda was only about 12 laps to finish off the race distance. At pitout, I was 1 lap down from the race leaders - 2 cars right in front of me. So I passed both of them (Yellow Corolla Axio and Orange ARTA Garaiya) to get back on lead-lap, and afterward I was about 3-4 seconds in front of them running at the same pace.

All of a sudden I saw a blue flag (let the leaders behind you through), at one of the corners, and radioed my team to ask them what to do, since the flag was a bit absurd as I had just passed them and they were not gaining on me. I saw the blue flag twice that race over a period of two laps at exactly the same post in sector 3 - and nowhere else. So I opted to ignore it since there was no communication back from the pit (strategically). We finished 10th to get 1 point - with passes at the very last few laps.

We did not get penalized by race officials. But GT (Super GT itself) opted to give me penalty points for ignoring the blue flag. Grey area....

Super GT Rd.5 - Sugo (Attendance: 27,000 people)
Sportsland Sugo

#26 Taisan Porsche | 2010 Super GT GT300

As a result of the GT-imposed penalty at Fuji, I was unable to partake in the first hour of the hour-and-a-half of testing on Saturday morning - the only time we get before qualifying.
Beside that, it was a relatively uneventful weekend. On Saturday, we qualified 15th.

Igor Sushko - #26 Taisan Porsche | 2010 Super GT GT300

I started the race, and gradually gained positions maintaining a good pace. There were a couple of retirements that also helped us. While running in 7th, on lap 29, which was my pit-in lap to end the stint, right on the straightaway - the engine just died. I tried to restart it using multiple methods but none of them worked. I parked the car out of the way at the hairpin and continued communicating with the pits and trying to get the engine back on. Finally, after more than 2 minutes, I got the engine running. Got back to the pits, changed drivers, and Ueda was on his way - but the race was over - no way we could regain the 2 laps we lost.

Igor Sushko - #26 Taisan Porsche | 2010 Super GT GT300

Thursday, April 15, 2010

2010 Super GT GT300 with Team Taisan Porsche 911 GT3R

The 2010 season is here!
2010 Super GT pit-walk

Taisan Posche 911 GT3R / Igor Sushko

Please check out my Facebook page where I make smaller and more common updates - . This is also the place to interact with other motorsports enthusiasts!

This year I am with the legendary Team Taisan is Super GT GT300. Since the inception of the series in 1994, Taisan has taken more championships than any other team in history, having even fielded cars like Porsche 962 and Ferrari F40.

This year's car is Taisan Porsche 911 GT3R - arguably the most sophisticated and advanced 911 in the world.
Although the team finished 11th in points last year, we're hoping to deliver at least one win this year.
The field is very deep this year with strong competition. Over the first two races of the season, the time margins in qualifying have been even tighter than in recent years. Nissan Z is strong, of course last year's champion Bandoh Lexus IS is up there, Jim Gainer Ferrari is quick. The Lamborghini Gallardo team seems to have figured out their mechanical troubles of years past. Toyota Corrola Axio, in its 2nd year of competition, appears to have figured out the setup quirks to go consistently fast. The Vemac 408R is absurdly fast but has had some mechanical problems the first two races, but it is a car to watch for. The drivers field is full of former GT500 aces and Formula Nippon/F3000 and IRL veterans.

Some of the car types in GT300 -

Taisan Porsche 911 GT3R (yours truly)
Taisan Posche 911 GT3R / Igor Sushko
Lexus IS350 (driven by Manabu Orido - my good friend and mentor, last year's champion)
Super GT GT300
Mazda RX7 (driven by Nobuteru Taniguchi)
Super GT GT300
Lamborghini Gallardo
Super GT GT300
Porsche Boxter GT
Super GT GT300
Nissan 350Z
Super GT GT300
Toyota Corolla Axio GT
Super GT GT300
ARTA Garaiya
Super GT GT300
Porsche 911 GT3RSR
Super GT GT300
Vemac RD408R
Super GT GT300
Shiden (Daytona Prototype-based)
Super GT GT300
Subaru Legacy
Super GT GT300
Aston Martin Vantage GT2
Super GT GT300
Ferrari F430
Super GT GT300

To contrast, there are 3 car types in GT500 - Nissan GT-R, Honda HSV, and Lexus SC
Nissan GT-R
Super GT GT500 Nissan GT-R
Lexus SC
Super GT GT500 Lexus SC
Honda HSV
Super GT GT500 Honda HSV

Suzuka Circuit
Suzuka Circuit

The first race was in Suzuka, where we finished 11th, just shy of points, and just recently we raced in Okayama. Both races have been exciting from the spectators' point of view with hot battles and incredible crashes, but we're still a little short on getting the setup right, with both drivers racing with this team for the first time. Although this car is a Porsche 911 by name, many similarities end there. The car has been developed by Taisan from the ground up in 2008, with heavy focus on aerodynamics and complete overhaul of suspension geometry and weight balance/center of gravity. For this, based on how the Super GT rules are structured and fast cars are 'settled back to earth,' compared to FIA GT-spec Porsche 911s running in the series, our car is handicapped by 100kg (220lbs) in weight and a smaller restrictor on the engine intake (meaning less power).

Check out the qualifying for Rd.1 Suzuka:

I was the starting driver for both of the races and we made up lots of positions in the start of the race in both cases (14th to 7th in Suzuka and 15th to 9th in Okayama), but then the falloff on the grip balance between front and rear progressively got worse (front in Suzuka and rear in Okayama) with an end result of loss of positions. It seems we slightly overcompensated for the problem in Rd.1 and went too far for Rd.2 in the setup direction. The car is so rigid and well built that the slightest change in ride-height - 1mm, changes the balance of the car, but with the experience from these 2 races I think we are in a good position to contest Rd. 3 Fuji next month.

Okayama International Circuit
Okayama International Circuit

My co-driver this year is Masayuki Ueda, a veteran driver from Osaka with over 15 years of racing experience. The last few years he was with a Ferrari team.

This is going to be an exciting year, and we have 6 more points rounds to go and the season finale exhibition will be at Fuji when we race along with Formula Nippon. The fastest GT car race and one of the fastest formula series in the world all in one weekend is sure to a great spectacle!

2010 Super GT Schedule:
Round / Circuit / Date

1 Suzuka Circuit
March 21
Suzuka Circuit

2 Okayama International Circuit
April 4
Okayama International Circuit

3 Fuji Speedway
May 2
Fuji Speedway

4 Sepang International Circuit
June 20
Sepang International Circuit

5 Sportsland SUGO
July 25
Sportsland Sugo

6 Suzuka Circuit
August 22
Suzuka Circuit

7 Fuji Speedway
September 12
Fuji Speedway

8 Twin Ring Motegi
October 24
Twin Ring Motegi

9 Fuji Speedway
November 14

If anyone has a chance to attend the race please let me know!

Super GT - English Website

All photos by Yasuhiro Tetsutani unless otherwise noted.

Check out the photo gallery for more photos of the events here:

New Sponsors for 2010
I am fortunate to have the support of these two entities in 2010:

BRM Watches - A French luxury watch brand with heavy alignment with motorsports. Mine is a special-edition SP model made for the F1 Singapore GP! BRM has a vast lineup of models and some allow for customization: you can select the case, the finish, the needles, the buttons, and the face, among other things to make a watch that is uniquely you.

Shade Hotel - the premiere luxury boutique hotel in Manhattan Beach, located 10 minutes south of Los Angeles Airport right on the coast. This is my hotel of choice for my stays in Los Angeles and I highly recommend it! Staying at this hotel is an experience in itself. You can use my last name 'sushko' as a promotion code for a discounted rate and special treatment!

BRM Watches on #26 Taisan Posche
Shade Hotel on #26 Taisan Posche

I am currently actively looking for a fashion design company and an alcoholic beverage company to integrate into my motorsports business structure. If you are involved in either of these industries please do not hesitate to contact me to discuss ways that I help you achieve your marketing and sales objectives.