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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