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

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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