My first Super GT race of 2014 took place this weekend at Okahama. I have some travel time to reflect on the weekend now as I’m writing this on the train to Narita Airport to catch a flight to Mexico.
Before Okayama race week I had some time with my family back in Spain and the opportunity to get some good training miles on my road bike but I came out to Japan a little early so I could
attend some NISMO events during the week.
On Wednesday we had a very interesting day as we went to Shinagawa Jinja (shrine) with NISMO. It’s a tradition before the season starts to pray for safety and victory. I really enjoyed being there and seeing the beautiful sakura (cherry blossom) trees and then having a meeting inside the Jinja with an emotional traditional ceremony.
After this event my team mate Kazuki-san took me for lunch on the way to the NISMO workshop where we had a meeting with all NISMO employees, signing posters and giving them a few words to thank them for their work and to fight for victory. I got very nervous when I had to do my speech in Japanese but luckily everyone understood what I said! “Konichiwa Lucas desu, NISMO de race dekite gambaremasu, yoroshiku onegaishimasu” which I hope means “Hello I am Lucas, I am so excited to race for NISMO, it’s a pleasure”.
The next day we hit the road to go to Fuji speedway for training. The conditions were very wet but was really good training to prepare for the Okayama race and it was so cool to have such an opportunity to develop our driving skills.
On Friday we took the super fast Shinkansen train to Okayama. I’m an expert in Tokyo Metro and trains now as I have taken so many already! From there we hooked up with Yasuda-san, one of the GT500 drivers, for a fun road journey.
The Okayama race track is in the middle of nowhere in really beautiful countryside, although it was extremely cold. When we arrived I suddenly realised how big this championship is. Fans were already at the track, meeting professional drivers like Tonio Liuzzi, Jorg Muller and Seiji Ara. It was an amazing atmosphere. Racing in Japan is very traditional but also extremely professional with official manufacturers, works drivers and different tyre makers so the competition is very hard.
After the longest driver briefing of my life - nearly three hours for foreign drivers and some laughs with GT500 friends like Liuzzi, Vernay, Baguette and Jarvis – it was time to have some rest for the racing weekend.
On Saturday things didn’t go perfectly for us, especially in practice where we struggled with no grip as the track temperature was so cold.
In the qualifying session Kazuki-san did a great job in Q1 after some positive set up changes made by the B-Max Team so we qualified for the Q2 session, which decides the starting position. I manages to get seventh place, which could have been better with no traffic; another thing learned about Super GT! I was pleased with this result though.
On Sunday when me and Kazuki-san arrived in the morning we got the news that the mechanics had to change the engine during the night and didn’t have any sleep at all so. These guys are the real heroes of motorsport. They work so hard.
The race was pretty clean for us and we finished in fourth place, which is a great result for the championship in a track that doesn’t suit the GT-R. Everyone was happy with my stint, including Hasemi-san, team director and ex-Daytona 24 Hours winner so this means a lot to me and helps to build my confidence for the next round at Fuji. It’s a great track for us so we’ll try to be on the top step of the podium for all the Nissan fans!
I’m off to Mexico now for some GT Academy work then I am hoping to squeeze in a day at home before I take to the road again to go and test the Nissan ZEOD RC, which I am really looking forward to!