The last few weeks have been busy and I have been racking up the air miles again. I came back to Japan two weeks ago for the Suzuka Test and was really pleased to find not only Kazuki Hoshino waiting for me but also my friend and fellow GT Academy winner, Wolfgang Reip.
Wolfie is our team mate for the Suzuka 1000kms at the end of August so he came over to test with us. The night I arrived we had a very special dinner.
I said special dinner because as always Kazuki-san takes really good care of me and this time also with Wolfie. He took us to eat unagui (Japanese eel) on the day of unagui! On this day of the year (29th July) it is Japanese tradition to order unagui at the restaurants and eat it at home with the family. We were lucky as the restaurant at Suzuka let us eat there when it was closed to the public. As always “totemo oyshi” (very tasty!).
Going back to racing, our two days test at Suzuka were positive and we worked hard to find the right tire compound and construction for a very hot Suzuka 1000kms race. It felt great to be back at my favourite track (well, apart from Le Mans and the Nordschleife). I enjoy every corner of this track; it’s just amazing how it is so fast flowing. It’s a challenge but an incredible one.
I found out that Kazuki-san loves Spanish food so as I am a bit of an expert on this subject it has become a tradition for me to take him to a Spainch restaurant and we have found some great ones in Japan. Once the testing was all over though we headed back to Tokyo and treated Wolfie to Tonkatsu which he really enjoyed.
The day after, I had some meetings at Nissan HQ and I spent some time walking around the amazing display of heritage racing cars and also the latest road car models like the NISMO GT-R.
It was great to meet with some friends at the offices and I had a very interesting meeting with very interesting people. I have to say that in that meeting room my mind wandered into thinking what my job would be now if I hadn’t won GT Academy. After doing an MBA it felt good talking with the marketing people at Nissan and reminded me of all the tings I learned.
The next day we headed off to a Golf Tournament organized by Nissan sponsor S-Road.
I’m still not very good at it but my target was to beat Ronnie-san and Motoyama-san (GT500 drivers) but they beat me, especially Ronnie because of the handicap regulation. In terms of number of shots I beat him by miles! My big disappointment was to lose the longest shot of the day by just a few centimetres! Let’s just say I had a lot of power but need to work on my control!
Big thanks to S-Road for a fantastic day and to letting me share the game with Tanaka-san!
After this event, Kazuki-san and me took a short holiday trip to the south coast. We really enjoyed our Japanese vacation with some of his friends but the Typhoon weather really messed up our sunbathing!
For Fuji Round 5 we were expecting a Typhoon on race day, so everyone was checking the weather forecast all the time. This weekend was a really special one for Kazuki-san as it was his 100th race in Super GT but he had no idea about it and even less that all of the NISMO family and the media had prepared a nice surprise in the paddock.
When he appeared in front of our garage he just couldn’t believe what was going on with so many people cheering for him. I was very happy, along with his dad Hoshino-san and Matsuda-san to bring the cake and flowers. It was also Ronnie’s birthday so literally ate Kazuki-san’s cake in front of us with the help of Motoyama-san and Kazuki-san. We had lots of laughs watching Ronnie fill his face with cake! Then Kazuki also got a face full as I threw cake in his face. What can I say? I was under team orders from Tanaka-san!
The serious stuff then began. I qualified 5th in Q2. Last time here I set the pole position but we knew this time would be a lot harder with the handicap weight. Considering we were the first GT3 car behind the JAF GT car I was happy with the result.
When race day came I thought we wouldn’t be able to run because of the typhoon but finally we did it, albeit in tricky conditions, including a red flag when Kazuki was in second place. That was a perfect position as the Subaru was unbeatable and he was behind us in the championship. After the rain gave us a break, the green flag came again and team decided to do the pit stop very late. This was because rain was expected again so we wanted to wait until all the other cars had pitted for intermediate tires. The track condition was damp and drying out but my tires were to soft for those track conditions so I could only recover just to P10.
At least we got one point for the championship but definitely we ended up very disappointed with this result. We had a great chance to visit the podium but our strategy just didn’t work. I hope the Suzuka 1000km in three weeks brings us some luck and we can fight for the victory as we have the pace to do it. Super GT again is giving me an incredible experience so let’s keep working in this line and results will come soon!
See you in Suzuka! I’m off for a quick holiday with my family so it’s time to disconnect and recharge the batteries for the end of the season.