My season is non-stop action this year! After a solid result at the Autopolis Super GT round, I switched my focus to the Le Mans 24 Hours and the Nurburgring 24 Hours. As it turned out they were not the best races for us. An early retirement at Le Mans was tempered with the satisfaction of completing a full electric lap at La Sarthe and to drive at over 300 km/h using only electric power.
Nurburgring was very disappointing for me as I caught a nasty virus at the start of the race meeting. I had a great time in free practice and put in some strong laps in the Nissan GT-R NISMO GT3 but soon after that I was sent to bed, under doctors orders! It was very frustrating for me and my team mates had some extra driving to do but they did a great job.
My illness meant that I also missed the official test at Suzuka.
A week of rest did the trick though and I was soon firing on all cylinders again.
I did another lap of the earth after that, flying from Spain to Mexico then later back to Japan. On the way to Mexico I had the opportunity to go into the cockpit for the landing and that was amazing. There are so many buttons they have to press, far more than on a racing car!
I was in Mexico for the National Finals of GT Academy. This is the first year of the competition in Mexico so it was good to go there as an ambassador and give the finalists lots of tips on how to win GT Academy. After two full days of PlayStation racing, fitness, media and driving tests, only six lucky Mexicans will go to Silverstone for the final stages – we call it Race Camp – in August.
I returned to Japan via Dallas and due to a delay I had to run what felt like the Dallas Marathon through the airport to get my connection. They must have wondered who this mad Spaniard was, jumping the queue for immigration! I made it to Tokyo, despite being parted from my luggage for a while!
The next day was Friday and it was time to meet Kazuki to catch the Shinkansen train to the Sugo track. After a quick pit stop for Sendai-style Ramen we headed to the track.
Once there we did the traditional signing-on with our licenses, and said hello to the many fans who were already waiting for us, despite it being a very wet day!
It was the first time for me at Sugo so off we went to do a track walk. We then spent time looking over previous year’s data, onboards camera footage and some sim training. The track looked so cool with it’s ups and downs, close walls, fast corners, especially the last one – talk about a corner for the brave: very fast, blind, huge uphill and with the wall next to you.
After the day at the circuit, Kazuki took me to a special restaurant in Sendai. The famous food is the Gyu-Tan which is delicious. It sounds better in Japanese though as in English it means ‘cow tongue’. Yes, it really sounds bad but I have a rule to always try any kind of food, except in China!
The race weekend started really well for B-Max NISMO GT-R Team. Kazuki went on track for a few runs in the wet and found a good car balance. Then I took the wheel and after a few laps to learn the track I set the third fastest time of the practice, right behind the JAF GT cars. We had positive feelings for qualifying, which unfortunately had to be postponed to Sunday due to dense fog on the track. I want to say thank you and sorry to all the fans who attended on such a very bad weather day.
Sunday was a busy day with the qualifying session, and we struggled in very wet conditions as Kazuki didn’t have enough heat in the front tires, just like all the Yokohama cars.
After a great fans autograph session and NISMO sponsor speech (in Japanese!) I was ready for what was going to be one of the toughest races in my career.
I took the start of the race in P13 and pitted to change from slicks to intermediate tires but after five laps the track completely dried out so we pitted again for slicks. At that moment we were P22 but after a great recovery, learning the track in dry conditions during the race and after a great last stint of Kazuki, we managed to score some points and finish P9 with all the championship contenders behind us, except one BMW. It could have been, as racing drivers say, a sure podium finish but is to say that in hindsight it was the wrong choice to pit for intermediate tires but this is why motorsport is so hard. There are so many decisions to make every second.
Now we are sitting in sixth place in the championship but only a few points behind third position and not much behind the leaders. Fuji on August 10th has to be the one. That’s where I set my first Super GT pole position so let’s work hard next week in Japan with some testing and be ready to win!