Victory in Thailand!!

 

The penultimate round of my first season in Super GT actually took place outside of Japan, in Thailand.

Before the race weekend got underway I went to Bangkok to do some work with the guys at Nissan Thailand. My Thai colleagues are the nicest people and they treated me so well from the moment I arrived at the airport. After the long flight it was a real pleasure to discover that they had booked me into one of the best hotels in Bangkok.


I did some live television interviews on True Channel and it was good to have the chance to talk about Super GT and GT Academy. Thailand held its first GT Academy competition this year and I know it was a great success for them. I attended the launch of the GT Academy TV show along with the Thai finalist and a great group of media and we rounded off a good day with an excellent dinner in a Japanese restaurant.


The following day I managed to do a little sightseeing and I’m glad I did as I got to visit one of the most important places in Bangkok – the Grand Palace. It was amazing to go to the palace and see where the Kings of Thailand lived from 1782 until 1925.

After the Grand Palace visit it was time to meet up with Kazuki, my team mate and the NISMO staff to travel to Buriram where the race would be held. It was a crazy seven-hour road trip in a van with a driver who I don’t think will ever make it to the GT Academy finals! Kazuki and I both ended up feeling pretty travel sick after that so it was a relief to arrive at Buriram and get our feet back on solid ground.

On Friday it was time to head to the brand new Chang International Circuit. We needed to do a track walk to get a good look at the new circuit but my goodness it was hot and so humid. I loved the layout of the track as it’s very fast and has some technical corners.

During the first free practice session we found the track had very low grip due to the lack of rubber but we expected it to improve as the weekend went on and it did just that.

After a promising second free practice session on Saturday we headed in qualifying feeling confident. I really enjoyed the qualifying session as we could push to the limit here, despite the fact we couldn’t match a local Porsche but that is because they had no weight handicap. We were very happy to secure second place on the grid and we were really happy with the balance of the car. We still had to check and analyze the data before deciding on the final set up as we needed to make sure we would have consistent pace on the tyres.

When race day came along we knew we had to push for a great result as the final round at Motegi is unlikely to suit the GT-R as well as the Buriram track. Kazuki started the race and kept a great pace, catching the leader by the end of his stint. We got the strategy just right, pitting a few laps after the leader so when I joined the race I had the lead. I had the BMW of Jorg Muller behind me but I maintained the lead until two GT500 cars pushed me off the racing line and the Thai Porsche got the opportunity to pass me. He then had a problem though so I focused on keeping my tyres and brakes in good condition but all the time mindful that I had a very motivated Jorg Muller on my rail!

After a long stint and last laps that went on forever I crossed the line in first place! What a feeling! I received very emotional messages from my engineer Ogawara-san and the rest of the crew. It was an amazing feeling to do the lap of honour and then to see Kazuki waiting for me on the main straight. I jumped out of the GT-R and jumped onto the roof with Kazuki to celebrate our win. This is the first win of the season for the GT-R GT3 – in fact it’s the first in Super GT since 2012 so I am very happy for the B-MAX NISMO team as they worked so hard to achieve this.

 

Lucas

My blog: June & July and Sugo Super GT

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!

 

Lucas

Sparco boots & gloves at Le Mans

Finally with the boots and gloses at Le Mans 24h

Thank you to all the competitors, Sparco and D-Noise to make this happen.

Really proud with the result