Last weekend was the final race of the 2014 Super GT Championship at Twin Ring Motegi.
After a great victory in Thailand I had some time at home to get in some proper training. I’m now back in Japan for the whole of November as we have testing to do and the ever-popular NISMO Festival at the end of the month.
I had an interesting trip to Japan and when I say interesting I mean terrible. I had a drunk guy sitting next to me who kept falling a sleep and cuddling up to me!
When I arrived in Japan I spent some time in Tokyo meeting with some Spanish guys to watch them play football, then I went to Fuji and Okayama before heading to Motegi with Kazuki in his car.
Once at Motegi I was impressed with the size of the facilities but the track itself didn’t look very exciting as it is all 90 degree corners. It was my first time there but thanks to Gran Turismo I knew the track from many years of virtual racing.
During the practice sessions we worked a lot on setup changes to reduce the understeering balance on entry and reduce the lack of grip on the exit of corners. This track is really tough on brakes and tyres so we knew our GT-R would suffer a lot like previous years so we planned to work in a clever way and have a different strategy for the race. On Friday night I had a great dinner as always with Kazuki but also with GT500 NISMO drivers Motoyama-san and Yanagida-san. It was great to spend some funny times with them before the race weekend.
On Saturday we found some setups for qualifying and for the race stints. We played a lot with roll bars, rear wing and camber. I started Q1 but my feelings were not really optimistic as we struggled in the braking zones but I had a perfect lap to place the car in P5. Then Kazuki did Q2 and put the car in P7 doing a great lap but with brake problems in last sector.
Again as at any Japanese race the atmosphere in the paddock was fantastic and even with the very cold weather the fans were on track from 7am. I did the start of the race and will never forget that moment when the Japanese anthem started and the entire crowd stood up and when it finished thousands of flags from different manufacturers started waving. It was an incredible sight.
The race was a tough one for us. I had a good start, passing the Hondas in the opening laps but then had a fierce battle with the strong braking Mercedes and the Audi of Richard Lyons. My brakes started to lose performance from lap 3 so I had to go really steady and also look after my tyres to see if we could do the full race on one set. We managed it so the pit stop was just for fuel and to hand over to car to Kazuki. He did a great job, making the most of the advantage of a fast pit stop but as our tyres were older he then had to defend hard from the guys on new rubber. We finished eighth, which is the best result we could expect at a track that is not suited to our car.
In the final championship standings we finished fourth. Obviously after winning the 2013 Blancpain Endurance Series Pro-Am title I wanted to fight for the championship here in Japan but we had a really strong competition. That said we took great results like the pole position in round 2 Fuji and the victory in Thailand plus two more top two qualifying sessions. Considering this was my first year in Japan and racing on so many tracks that are new to me I am happy with these results.
Now it is time to thank Nissan NISMO and all the partners for such a great first year in Japan. I can’t wait to work harder than ever to get another exciting opportunity in 2015. Also thank you to all the B-Max team and Kazuki for being so faithful, friendly and helpful in and out of the race tracks. And last but not least thank you to all the fans for been unique and so massively supportive – without you this would not be possible.
To finish my blog in the best way possible, big congratulations to #23 NISMO TEAM and Ronnie & Tsugio for GT500 Championship!! GT-R back on top!
See you soon