The Fuji race brought with it a new driver line up, regulars John Martin and Tor Graves were joined by former Formula 1 driver Shinji Nakano who was keen to show well in front of his home fans. The event started with a test day which gave the team chance to get the car tuned in, and it all looked good with John posted a time over a second quicker than anybody else in the class. It was early days and the track conditions were changing quickly but all the drivers were comfortable in the car and even in the few laps Shinji did he already showed his class posting competitive lap times.
The team were feeling confident by the time Free Practice started but there were other posting quick times especially James Rossiter in the Lola, we new we had a quick car so we worked on giving Shinji appropriate time in the car for him to get up to speed with everything as well as tyre life evaluations. In qualifying it was going to come down to the usual Sarrazin, Martin battle but the Lola with Formula 1 driver Antonio Luzzi was also going to be a threat, John did another great lap and missed the pole by fractions of a second from Sarrazin.
The race strategy was simple as the race distance made it a clear seven stint race, John started as the qualifying driver and although he over took Sarrazin at the start, Luzzi went round the outside of both of them at turn 1. John applied maximum pressure over the early laps and is wasn’t long until the pressure told and Luzzi made a mistake into turn 2 which John pounced upon taking the lead. With a clear track John was able to maintain the lead over Sarrazin who had also taken Luzzi and in the first round of pit stops the car was handed over to Shinji to maintain the lead, with a number of other drivers putting in their amateur driver Shinji pulled out a commanding lead and putting in a very strong consisted pace that was impressive considering is very limited running in the car. A double stint from Shinji before handing over to Tor, we had monitored the other amateur driver lap times so new what Tor’s target laptime was but not content with that he put on another impressive display to maintain the lead at the end of his double stint but the gap was down to almost nothing as John took back over for a head to head battle with Sarrazin in the HPD, John pulled out an advantage in the first stint of his second outing but we had concerns that if we took tyres for the final stint and the HPD did not then all our lead would be gone. Equally we know John is a match for any driver so we should give him everything to push for the win, new tyres went on and as the HPD pitted it looked like they would not change, but a last minute call they changed the left front and exited the pits directly behind John, but there was no way the Australian was going to give this one up and he cruised to victory with a margin of over 30 seconds at the end of the race.« back to race reports