Friday, December 10, 2010

Video showing Alex's first ever race

Our new French driver Alex joined the team recently and with no prior race experience hopped behind the wheel of our BB6 and did a great job. He cut this video of himself. His driving is quite smooth and quick. He was easy on the car and did a great job. Nice job on the video too Alex.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

28th November - Ebisu 6 hour Endurance Race. Thomas O'Dowd (4 of 4).

Looking at the weather in Nihonmatsu the night before, I saw that it would more than likely rain during my stint. I don't mind rain too much as long as I have some thread and was looking forward to a new experience. Rain might give us a good fighting chance against some of the rwd race cars also.

When we turned up at the circuit it was pretty cold and unbelievably it soon started to drizzle. It wasn't really enough to make any standing water on the circuit so no major worries. Qualification was 15 minutes earlier than I was expecting. Opps. Anyway, getting ready as fast as I could, I listened to some of the other cars do a lap or two and the rain started to get harder too. So much for them drying the line for me. Damn.

I was quite apprehensive heading out as we'd 4 new tires on which had never seen a surface before. I was wondering how long they would take to start gripping in the wet. As such when I headed out, I was took my time and weaved and speed up gradually. Loads of time. Qualification is 30 minutes after all. Normally, I'd have come in after a few laps but I wanted to make sure that Mike had good tires to start the race with too with good air pressure so I stayed out. Times started coming down as I gained confidence in the grip. I took zero chances as we'd a full 6 hours and 4 drivers to go so I decided to come in when I'd got a 1'13.3. There was definitely more time there, but I figured that was fairly decent. Little did I realize but it put us 5th on the grid! Sweet!

The race itself should have been relatively straight forward from here. We were nearly 3 seconds faster than the next car in our class (in the wet at least) and 5th would be an interesting race start for Mike :-) I won't talk about Mike's run (as he has done so already) but midway in his session the officials were telling us to bring him in as the flap was hanging off dangerously on his front left wing. Took Mike a few laps to see the P sign but he finally came in much to our delight.

I'd already got tape and a cutter ready so the first thing we tried to do was repair by tape. This wasn't working though as the underbody was wet and I'd decided that it might come undone again. Better to take it off. We tried cutting the underflap next though but it was too tough to get through. Mike kept telling us to yank it off but I felt that it might do more harm than good to just yank as its pretty strong plastic and the last thing I wanted to do was yank and have the fender come off with it. I got a + out of the box and undid a screw which released one edge and from there we were able to pull clips and cut cable ties. It was off! It was the longest bloody pit stop and one of the hardest as we knew we were pissing away time. Anyway, once the official was happy, Mike tore off down the pit road in fury and we were all wondering if he'd end up in some ditch driving like a maniac to claw back any lap time. I think we were 3 laps down when Mike finished. Opps.

Sumi was up next and drove a steller pace throughout his session. We were 4 down as he went out and the course was drying out. After his session, there was 2 laps in it again. We still had a fighting chance. Alex was out next. Mike and I were wondering how our race would be looking when his 90 minutes were up. When he entered the course car 51 was just behind him and he somehow he stayed there for more than a few laps. This was looking good! Then car 51 got passed but didn't really pull too much of a gap. We were 4 laps down again. I started timing laps and Alex was doing pretty much consistent 1'13.5s. Fantastic. Suddenly he started to real back in car 51 and a few laps later he was passed. Wow! 2 laps down! We had a proper race on our hands again. Alex was performing wonderfully. Due to the other team pitting and us pitting, when I got out on the track, we were 2 laps down.

I got in the car as quick as I could and got the straps on, reset the TraqMate and started watching cars as they went past the first corner. The boys were starting on the 3rd fuel can when I saw 51 go around again. It took a while more to let me go but my target was pinned in my memory. Car 51. White. Big wing. Mine!

I went out and started to nail some laps together while checking the car. Brakes were horrid with the peddle almost going to the floor in a wishy-washy way that didn't inspire confidence. I knew it was just air though and I just believed in the nice thick new pads we'd put on the car and kept the speed up. It meant I had to brake early though. I had such a blast as I worked my way by so many cars without remorse. Finally I caught car 51 and noticed that he was quite fast everywhere except the downhill chicane and the downhill corner. I got by easily and Mike was showing me funny signs like -3 laps etc which I thought to egg me on as I couldn't be 3 laps behind them. Finally he showed me the -1 I'd been expecting and I just worked on lapping fast.

After passing so many cars, I finally came upon a fast B class civic that didn't want to let me passed to easily. He didn't block or anything but held his corners and had much the same speed as me up and down the hills. I'd another car behind that was trying to pass me also and for a few laps, I drove as cleverly as I could to keep the other guy behind while trying to take the guy in front. This was proving to be really enjoyable. I was really loving our 3 way battle. We got caught in traffic at the inner hairpin and I had to hit the brakes un-expectedly to avoid the black civic who'd done pulled right when I didn't expect him too. The little white TMC car got passed on the inside. That guy is good on the brakes. I was hoping he'd open the door for me on the civic but he was having the same trouble I was. Another momentum car.

I decided to try and pass him again rather than wait and I got him on the uphill first corner after he'd hit the brakes to avoid the civic making a mistake on the last corner. He was right on my ass again. What a race! I decided the only way to pass the civic was also the up hill corner. I'd got close a few times but he wasn't giving it to me easily. I left a bit of space before the last corner and got a really nice 3rd gear last corner on the gas up the hill. I got it just right and was on his bumper the whole way up the hill. I moved for the inside as the power kicked in cresting the hill and got him under braking as I ran out of revs. Awesome. The white TMC car came too. I wasn't going to let him passed though and concentrated on making a gap and finding that 51 car to take the lead.

Passing the 51 car to take the lead actually turned into a bit of a non-event.
I was on his ass from the bottom of the hill and he indicated left. Then I
guess he saw it was me and stopped indicating. He was coming up fast on
another car on the left though and he indicated again to keep left and I just
flew by... No fight and no drama, but we were in the lead. It would later turn
out that they needed a tire change badly and were just trying to hold off to
see if they could retain the lead. I didn't know this though.

Towards the end of the race, I was hoping pit wall would give me some lap info as I was running low on gas and was trying to figure out if I had pit time or I should tune down my right foot and start changing up more. I decided on the latter. I got fuel starvation with about 5 laps to go but decided that it was just under high G's so we might be ok. I figured the yellow light handn't been on long enough to use up 9 or so litres of fuel that might remain in the tank when it would come on. I kept out there as it seemed I might loose less time than a fuel stop the the pits were not ready for. I didn't get any more signs of fuel starvation after that one and when I saw the checkered flag. I was very relieved and very happy! We'd done it again. We'd gone and won the bloody race!

Well done to everyone who helped us work on the car! Thanks for all your time and effort. We couldn't have raced with out you. Thanks to all the team who worked hard in the pits and drove hard on the circuit. You can't win the race alone. You need a great team! Team Gaijin Racing.

Miguel keeps adding that photos and video are coming but I haven't had any
time to work on them yet. They are coming though...

28th November - Ebisu 6 hour Endurance Race. Alexandre Plattard (3 of 4).


First of all thanks to the team for inviting me and trusting me.

I jumped in the car, attached myself with the help of Sumi-san and go. I had in mind that I had to be careful with the tires and to bring the car back.
As I was driving around, learning the track, getting used to the gearbox and the steering wheel on the wrong side, I tried to go faster little by little.
I managed to reach lap time around 1.15 which was a bit disappointing. I didn't feel very comfortable with the car and had difficulty to get used to drive a FF again.
At night, after reviewing videos and comparing my lines with others I had some better idea of what I should do if I wanted to improve my lap time.

The pressure went up as we lost some time trying to fix the car. We were
very close to the team 51. Sumi-san jumped out and I had no difficulty
getting in as he moved the seat back. He then helped me to find the belts,
Mike and Tom refueld, added a bit of oil and shouted "Go!Go!Go".
Weirdly I don't remember much of the race, it felt like it lasted 2 minutes
only. During the race I felt much more confident than the previous day. I
could understand the car's behavior better. As I was driving, I saw a white
car behind me. I remembered that during practice there was very fast Silvia
so I thought it was him and decided I would let him go. As he takes over I
see the number on the side : "51". Ooops! Lesson 1 : Don't let anyone go if
there is no blue flag. Anyway I thought it was a good opportunity to improve
my lines by folowing him. Gradually I managed to get close to him again and
in the straight I was a bit faster and took over in the first corner. It
felt good!

At some point a grey car, driven by students decided he would take over
under yellow flag. It got me really upset so I thought I would not finish
the session without taking the position back. So again, in the straight I
was faster than him and managed to take over in the first corner. For some
reason he tried to block me, even though we are not racing in the same

A black car had a problem at the end of the straight after the chicane and
ended up crashing badly. The driver was not coming out and the ambulance had
to take him out. I hope he's OK. It reminded me that shit can happen. The
black car with the manga paintings also span for some reason. It was after
the kink, everything looked fine and he decided to spin right in front on

This fight with these two cars was really exciting and a lot of fun. After
that I was a bit lonely on the track. At some point I thought they stopped
the race and I was the only one who didn't see it! Just taking over the
black car with Manga drawing and another very slow blue car. Of course the
Silvia and MR-2 were taking over every 2 laps.

Before starting Mike told me I should target a lap time of 1.13. In the end
I was happy with my lap times as I went down to around 1.12. Mission
accomplished. I need to improve my gear shifting as I too often wasted time
by missing gears and I think I can be more agressive. I heard so much a

So it was a great week-end and I hope I can join again. The team is really
friendly and I am sure that it helped me a lot to release some pressure
before racing.


P.S : I keep my beautiful french accent on purpose because girls like ;-)

Monday, November 29, 2010

28th November Ebisu 6 hours endurance race - Hideo Sumi (2 of 4)

28th November Ebisu 6 hours endurance race

We projected racing driver ,Tom ,Mike ,Alex.P and Sumi.
total entrant were 24. running car were 22.

Car inspection.
We were indicated about seat belt fixed angle.
We must modify for next race.

Qualifying heat.
in rain session, Tom ran very fast and gave us 5th position.
It was 1st position in N class.
Hey Tom nice driving !! wow!!

Race heat.
1st driver, Mike
2nd driver, Sumi
3rd driver, Alex.P
4th driver, Tom

9:45 ,race session opened , Mike dash , dash , dash.
He ran very smooth in rain. after a short time ,We were given orange ball flag from official.
It was machine trouble. Left hand front inner trim separated body.
It was very danger , We called him and repaired in pit.
Maybe We lost a few minute.
When his session finished 2nd position in N class.
minus 4 laps.

after open 90 minute , driver change , He got out , I rode on BB6 with a lot of fuel.

first I ran slow pace , because I think scary running in rain.
and S line , turn left , I slid rear tire , It was very scary.

because before long clear up , I ran very push.
I passed a lot of rival team car. I funned very very ...

but I had fatal mistake.

last 20 minute I lost fuel. I must got refueling.
I send to pit crew by klaxon.
When I checked crew's sign , I have touch and go.

I ran 90 minute and released to 3rd driver Alex.P.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Number 1.

28th November - Ebisu 6 Hour Taikyu Race - Mike Gadd (1st of 4).


I was looking forward to starting a race – never having done so. I wanted to experience the atmosphere of it all which I figured would be very different form the end or middle of the race where I have so far only driven.

With the discussions we had at the team meeting and the new methods I tried I had managed to get 1:11:0 during practice and felt that a low
1:10: was certainly doable - i was eager to find out exactly how low- but damn the rain started!!

Despite the rain it couldn’t have worked out better for my first race start as Tom did an amazing job in qualifying not only putting us at the top of our class but in the top 5 overall. I was to experience the race start for the 1st time in the front of the grid at the no,5 spot surrounded by the Rire cars and their ilk.

Alas in the rain and cold the race queens were few and far between and despite our prominent position never came close to our car for the prerequisite pictures.
Race started slowly with the B class cars around me going ape shit swerving violently back and forth in the rain trying to get some heat in their tyres and almost hitting each other at times in the process....

As the race got underway and settled down we soon spread out. With no cars in our class infront of me I was happily lapping some surprisingly slow B class cars while I kept an eye out in my mirror for our class cars.
The rain had been coming down for over an hour and the track was slippery in places. I was frustrated at not being able to get decent lap times but as I was lapping B class cars and hadn’t seen any car in our class behind me I knew I was at least maintaining our position hopefully gaining a lead.

The rain slowed and almost stopped for a while then it would start up –. This actually created more danger as cars (myself included) would begin to pick up speed and change line demand more grip and then occasionally when the rain picked up again the grip would go and you’d have to rapidly readjust. The rapid changing conditions caught many off guard and quite a
few span. I was comfortable and stable basically keeping a conservative
dry line but reducing the speed as the rain wasn’t pooling. I was certainly getting zero under steer and was probably lapping at about 1:14?. which appeared to be competative in these conditions even amongst most of the B class cars. In practice the day before I had tried out some techniques we had discussed at the team meeting and boy what a difference. The chicane now is far easier for me. I also changed the way I took the last corner with a lot of success taking it as a constant radius corner no braking going in and full throttle from apex going wide and high. (basically appreciating we have more turning grip after apex than before) I was settled in and things were stable. The rain had probably picked up and I was passing the kink. What I had been doing so far was to clip the kink in 4th lift, then back on the throttle at const speed, no braking,
wide, and enter take the corner on a constant radius. As I begin the
turn in and at last min drop into 2nd and as soon as I apex its smoothly
transitioning 70% throttle for a short time then 100% as I go wide up the hill. Bit of oversteer half way up that needs to be adjusted for.

Then disaster struck.... For some reason I suddenly had less grip after
the kink. I don’t know if the rain had picked up more or there was oil on the track (I suspect the latter) as I was doing the same thing I had been doing all along – but something had changed. As I passed the kink const throttle const rad I was fine for a bit then as the line turned more in the back swang out violently. Possibly I wasn’t on enough
throttle and the back was light or rain or oil - but either way I couldn
’t catch it and recover I span off the track sideways and ploughed along sideways in the dirt. To be honest it reminded me a lot of my landrover days. As I’m sat there my immediate thought was to see if I was stuck to get straight back out there. I didn’t want to spin the tires to I gingerly tried to pull forward - they span! Bugger. At that moment I saw the no2 place car pass me – bugger! Thinking back of the landrover times again I put her in reverse and forward and rocked her gently before finally getting out of the rut/soft soil and managed to get my front tyres on the track! Yes. Waited for a gap and got back out there dumping a considerable amount of mud on the track.

The offing had cost me about 10-20 seconds which I was determined to make
up but decided to take the last corner entry slower. Surprisingly
quickly I caught up with the no2 car and passed him. He was still behind me as I reached the kink then despite slowing down (and thinking about it know – because of) as gracefully as I could I span off in exactly the same place doing exactly the same thing! This time I stayed on the track and recovered so fast I actually caught up with him almost right away. I remember thinking this guy must be thinking I am if nothing else unrelenting as I regained all the lost time without missing a heartbeat. I realize now that I span the 2nd time precisely because I wasn’t on enough throttle (for that line) to keep the back down right when I needed rear grip. Lesson learnt – less throttle can be less safe if its at the wrong time. Im also thinking for this reason perhaps we need a rear wing......

Everything back on track I settled down retaining our lead but I dialed it right back further on the last corner. Given that I had been taking that corner as fast as the slick clad rire cars i figured i could afford to dial it right back. I saw 4 cars spin off there during my session – I suspect there was oil mixed with the rain and made sure to pass this info to the next driver. I could see I was the faster car in our class overall and we were in front so I was content.

....... Then the real disaster struck I saw tom with the ‘pit in’
sign. Apparently one of our wheel arch liners had come undone and was
hanging down. The marshals wanted it fixed. I had just had the battle
of my life to keep our place so I was far from happy to be pissing away time in the pits especially as nobody was telling me what was going on. I ’m sure tom and sumi were working as fast as they could but from drivers perspective in the middle of a race the removal of the liner was infuriatingly slow. I swore rather a lot as I sat there seeing the no2 car lap us again and again and again! That’s one video that I don’t want to see lol!

Back on the track with 15mins to go and we are 2 laps behind in 2nd place! Damn.
The good news was the rain had stopped and the track was drying so we were hoping sumi alex and tom could regain those lost laps!
They did. Alex in particular did amazingly well, His driving is smooth and fast. After a couple laps lost to driver change and refuel It came down to tom to regain our lost laps. By the time he went out after change and refuel we were 4 laps down and it was very exciting. Tom was 2 secs a lap faster and they also had a driver change and refuel to do so we were on the edge of our seats. We didn’t know how fast their new driver would be.

Then they made a huge mistake! They came in for a driver change, they refueled, they checked the oil – and then with only an hour to go they changed tyres!! With a smile on my face I watched tom passing the pit lane again and again as they faffed about. That error and toms faster driving during his session took us up to a +4 lap lead and 1st place!!

It was a great race and a lot of fun. Despite his outrageous accent Alex is an asset that I hope we will be seeing a lot more of in the future.
The new pedal position and cover make heel and toeing a breaze. The new
extensions i put on the harness wasite straps makes them a lot easier to use. The car needs a wash, and tom needs to burn that video of me :) well done team gaijin!!!! what a season!

Another win for TGR!

We'll have more news after a rest back in Tokyo. We had a pretty big battle today and lots of drama and the odd bit of swearing but we managed to grab back first place in our final session. Finished 7th overall which was another good showing. Well done team!!!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Scary Brake Drama...

We knew the brakes were bad but this is a tad dangerous don't you think? In the last race, we used up quite a bit more brake pads than we expected to use. Mike finished the race with no front left bad basically. We didn't know how bad it was until we were swapping them out this weekend. Check out these photos!

Here you can see the naked piston. The heat melted away the dust cover. Eeek.

Here is a side profile of the two left pads. You can see where the piston pushed into the melted back plate which has totally been pushed out of shape. There is only a slight bit of useless pad remaining. The other pad has no pad left either and is also down to the back plate.

Here is a front on view. The pad meat should be there but its just shiny metal that remains. Yikes. Mike - how the hell did you complete that race! Not to mention you guys bringing the car home in 3rd! Lesson learned me thinks - no more "it should make it"... Lets not skimp on essentials like tires nor brakes!

Gotta repair the caliper now. Have ordered a caliper repair kit from Honda. Should get it tomorrow.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

16th October 6 hour Ebusu Endurance Race - Mike Gadd (To the chequered flag).

Miguel was doing well, 1:10s and had just pulled a 1:09.5. He was gaining on the 2nd place car (in our class) and in the pit we were frantically discussing the refuel strategy. My session was about to start - 90mins to go to race end. We knew a full refuel would only last us about 1hr 15mins. Miguel was pulling such good times and because we had just done a splash and dash we knew he had fuel enough to keep going for an extra 20mins.
All day there had only been 2 safety cars out. I reasoned that if no safety car comes out during my session that we would lose time doing the splash and dash necessary for me to complete the last 25mins, so I suggested we kept Miguel out an extra 15mins as not having to stop for extra fuel would give us an edge overall.
We stood at the pit wall and kept the `pit in` sign well out of his view and kept our arm movements down so as not to give Miguel the idea we wanted him to pit at the scheduled time. I suspected he wouldn't pit anyway unless we called him in as I knew, like my mum’s old Jack Russell, once he had the smell of blood in his nostrils there's no stopping him. We discussed it and agreed that if we called him in after an extra 15mins that would mean Id be starting a 1hr 15min stint with enough fuel to complete the race with no pit stops - perfect given that we knew the 2 leading cars were changing drivers every hour on the hour so they both would lose perhaps half to one lap after we changed drivers. So with our lead if I could go out and maintain a reasonable speed and not crash we would be guaranteed to be on the podium as we would have no stops.
Just as we were about to call Miguel in he entered the pit lane. Getting in the car I realised the seat was really too far forward and I adjusted it back, too far and the harnesses were all really lose. I had a job finding the straps - Miguel was assisting me a little as the others were refueling. I closed the door and continued getting the straps done but all too soon (in light of how fast we refuel now with the new cans we maybe need to look at assisting the driver strap in more) I was signaled to go. I only had one glove on, one strap was not over my HANS device, all straps lose and my balls trapped uncomfortably under one of the crotch straps...not a good way to start the race. Rounding the 1st corner and through the chicane I didn't feel right. The seat was too far back, harnesses weren’t right, only one glove (the other had dropped in the foot well and was now resting somewhere around under the clutch pedal). I felt really hot, I didn't feel comfortable at all and tried my best to get so and get up to race speed asap. Passing the start line for the 1st time in my session I was busy putting the final tightening on my harnesses, resigning myself to the facts I had to make do with only one glove and potentially never being able to father another child. Unsurprisingly I noted, once again, that the traqmate wasn’t working but I knew the first lap or two would not be at the kind of times Id want to see anyway. Unfortunately it took me far far longer than usual to get up to race speed and Id joined the race not far in front of the 2nd place car, who with my reduced initial speed managed to catch up and get in front of me passing me around my 2nd lap. At that point I had just reached a point where I was sorted, comfortable settled and up to race speed.

As I speeded up I now faced a new problem. I had allowed the now slower 2nd placed car to get in front of me. We were going around the circuit bumper to bumper. At each corner I would exit faster and be up his bum - he'd block me, he'd get the blue flag, I’d try again, he'd block me and take the corner. This was happening on every corner. After what felt like 100`s laps of this I was getting more and more frustrated. I was clearly the faster car and they were just taking the piss. The marshals at downhill hairpin and the last corner were getting increasingly and noticeably animated waving the blue flag at them. It was getting to the point they he was spending so much time blocking me that he was off the line and slowing us both down. At times I could just see the 4th place car in my rearview he was catching on us. I didn't mind just maintaining our no.3 position the guys had worked so hard to obtain and not being able to pass the 2nd place car but I sure as hell didn't want them to slow us down so much that the next car catches up and we potentially lose /have to fight to keep 3rd place. I had been flashing and flashing them on every corner and right up his bum getting increasingly aggressive to the point now that it was dangerous for both of us - it was so clear that he was far slower. Strangely I was actually quite a bit faster than him on the chicane (which I assumed was my worse corner surprisingly) and I knew I could outbreak him so decided Id set it up to take him at the downhill hairpin. I came through the chicane backing off just before it enough so I could get on line (he was driving slow off line to block me) and so get max exit speed. I succeeded and was now gaining on him down the straight. I was making it very very clear I was going for it. I was flashing high beam and hand on the horn as I’m gaining fast on him. I was on line still behind him and I stayed to the left knowing he'd try to block me if I showed my hand too early. I could see ahead of us the marshal waving yet again the blue flag at him. At the last min I modified my braking a tad swung across behind him and took the inside line. I passed before the corner tight on the inside line he was well out of my corner view behind me. I was perfectly placed, on max breaking, tight, inside line - I knew I had the corner. Then in the corner of my eye I see him go deep breaking hard then pulled right across me. I couldn’t believe it. It was a very bad move, especially for a car that’s being blue flagged at the time. I literally had a car parked seaming stationary right across me at 90 degrees completely blocking the track. I had nowhere to go; I locked the wheel up, modified the pressure and turned as much as I could into the grass. He had to break so hard to turn and block he was practically stationary across me so it was the offside front corner that made contact with him at his rear door. The contact started at his rear door and ended at his front fender.

I kept going and took the corner (in front of him) and instantly decided I would find out if the car was left in a dangerous condition the hard way. Foot to the floor I sped off and the 2nd place car slowly but surely disappeared into my rear view mirror. I didn't see the 4th place car again either so I fixed my target to catching backup with the 2nd place car again and trying to gain on the Westfield.
After another dozen or so unfettered laps I saw the Westfield ahead of me.

I gained on it, once again coming down to the downhill hairpin. Threshold breaking I felt the car snake as if I’d hit ice. The lightest of steering correction and modifying the pressure settled it but I’d lost my line and the gap opened up. The loss of control worried me as it was not due to something that was familiar to me. It was a strange sensation. Then on the downhill hairpin every time I threshold braked the car would snake increasingly violently. I concluded that something had been damaged from the impact (Turned out the steering arm was bent, making the car vastly toe out on the left side). With each lap it seemed to be getting increasingly harder to keep the car on the track under heavy breaking so I decided I had no choice but to slow the pace right down perhaps even to give up all but one lap of our lead on the 4th place car, slow enough to maintain our 3rd place position and survive the race and forget about trying for 2nd. The decision was made easier as I knew car in 2nd and 4th had just done a driver change so would be perhaps a lap down and I had gained a lap on the Westfield and regained the lost lap from the 2nd place car.
Then the 2nd place car with a new driver flew past me like I was stationary. They were truly flying.

I knew immediately I wouldn’t be able to gain on them. They obviously saved a fast driver to last. So the focus shifted to just keeping at least one lap ahead of the 4th place car.
How far behind me were they? Could I afford to slow the pace (so as not to crash) and not lose 3rd to them if they caught me up? If I was forced to slow to a snail’s pace how many laps could I give up to them without losing 3rd place? Each time I passed the pits I scanned to see if they were showing me my position, as we had discussed the importance of this info and how best to give it during the last part of the endurance race, earlier. I had one time seen Simon holding something the size of a pocket handkerchief earlier with some writing on it but too small to read and I hadn’t seen anything since. I decided I’d just try to go as fast as the brakes would allow and if I saw the 4th place car come up behind me I’d just hope we were either a sufficiently large number of laps ahead that they now (with 15mins to go) couldn’t make up enough laps to take our position. I didn’t see them again.
5 mins to go and the TMC car appears behind me. I didn't know if they were a risk to us or not but they were in our class. I didn't want to take the risk of guessing wrongly. I quickly realised that I could be faster than them on all corners but I wasn’t able to outbreak them on the downhill hairpin at all. If I even came close to threshold breaking the car would snake very violently. It was literally suicide to try to.
The only thing I could think to do was to stay ahead of them on rest of circuit as I knew I could, and...Well...block them on the downhill hairpin. And this is what I did. I did it for what turned out to be the last 8 mins of the race (the cars internal clock was wrong) with each lap the degree of breaking I could apply at the downhill was decreasing. Although I admit to blocking it was only for one corner and it was clear I was the faster car on rest of circuit so I don’t think they had too much of an issue with me or that I was doing anything wrong. I certainly wasn’t getting blue flagged even on the downhill hairpin as I was faster right up to my earlier breaking point. The situation with the 2nd place car was different.
In that case it was abundantly clear they were not the faster car.

I passed the chequered flag taking 3rd place. Happy that I didn't erode the lead that Simon, Alex and Miguel had done such a great job winning.
I was surprised to see so little damage from the contact. The Preludes a tough car.

I explained that it was losing control under breaking and Miguel took a quick look at the front brakes and informed me that they were worn very thin on one side and worn down to the metal on the offside. The car was snaking under heavy breaking because we had toe out on the left side & harder braking on the right because of metal to metal contact.

I was frankly stunned to hear we had tried to use the same pads for a 12hr race and then a 6hr race.....
3 podium places in 3 races - I’m very proud of our achievements.

16th October 6 hour Ebusu Endurance Race - Miguel Varella-Cid (3rd of 4 drivers).

As I’d need to get home quickly after the race on Saturday, I’d opted to ride up on my bike, letting Alex carry my small backpack in the Prelude. Although the weather had been nice, leaving Shizuoka, I had taken the decision not to wear my leathers, but an armoured waterproof over suit. Alex & I travelled up in convoy except when I had to peel off to fill up, whilst he carried on. Then as I got back on the bike to catch him the heavens opened up about 50km from Koriyama, where we’d be stopping for the night. We couldn’t resist a Chinese meal and plenty of ice cold Asahi beer. Then the first surprise of the evening – I got a call from Mike. He was less than 20 minutes away and had managed to make the race, having abandoned his pressing work engagements and just driven down in his Lotus. More beers ensued, whilst Mike helped finish off the rest of the Chinese food. Sumi, on the other hand wasn’t going to make it… He’d tried putting on his helmet with stinking flu and felt so nauseated he’d e-mailed and called to say he wasn’t going to make it, poor chap.
Simon & Steve arrived shortly afterwards and more beers were drunk, much laughter and a narrow escape from a Phillipino infested hostess bar..

As Alex had volunteered to drive the Prelude up and spent so much time helping us prepare the car for the race, we’d intended to let him qualify, but since Sumi was now not going to race, Alex would drive his stint and I’d do the qualifying.

This race was had a surprisingly large number of entrants, so we were in for a fight… That’s how we like it! I went out and tried to set fast lap times, but this required timing it so I wouldn’t be held up by any other cars. In frustration of being held up and trying to see how the car would handle if I really chucked it into corners or braked too late, I was making mistakes. The car felt wrong too, lots of under steer. The plan had been for me to do say 6 laps, and then let Mike have a go, but the car wasn’t right. I came in; we checked the tyre pressures and took out some air. Mike noted the front damping setting was at something like 11, when it should be around 6. That would explain the under steer due to the dampers working sluggishly. I asked him to set it to 8, went out and the car felt immediately better, although the back still felt a tad under damped..
I did a mid 1.10 lap which I felt a little disappointed with, as I’d felt there was more to come and had hoped for a 1.09, but as we were now 3rd in class, behind the red Westfield and yellow Impreza Sti 5 wagon & lots of cars behind us that should have been faster, being lighter and on S tyres, etc. I realised everybody else had found the track as challenging as me, so we hadn’t done too badly I guess..

Simon started the race. Blue Leaf’s black Primera had one of their fastest drivers on for the first stint who took Simon in the first lap and began to pull a gap on us. The Westfield – in the meantime was going well (For a change!) and maintaining 1st position. 2nd Positioned Impreza Sti 5 was the same car that had been so slow in the last race, but was now a lot quicker. After 90 minutes we were down two positions to 5th, but the Yellow Impreza had more driver changes and we knew some of their drivers were slow – so there was no threat from them. Our targets were the stripped out black (Blue Leaf Team) Primera and the Red Westfield, both run by very competitive teams (The matt black DC5 we were challenged by in the last race is run by the same team).
The B class cars that had qualified fastest were still quicker – but not our targets. One notably fast little car was that 1.3 litre full tune Datsun. It sounded Awesome and went like stink! What a cool machine!

As Simon came in, we were all ready. Our new Fuel cans were much faster for refueling – and Alex helped get Simon out, whilst I helped Alex get his belts on as the fueling was about to begin. Alex went out and began fighting.
I could see he was enjoying himself as lap times got less and less. Not a bad way to be, after not having raced at all or driven on Ebisu since the first race our car had done.

Simon, Steve & I went to eat some food at the canteen, whilst we watched Alex do the middle bottom hairpin. He was doing well and we were up one position. We reasoned that with Mike and I being the faster drivers, with our stints still to go, there was a chance we’d catch Blue Leaf’s black Primera and were in with a strong chance of 2nd place. Remembering how the car had handled in qualifying & I watching the Prelude, I could see it was handling well, but I still felt the back was still a tad lively, being under damped. I began to form a list of things in my mind we had to do when Alex pitted and I took his place after 3 hours racing:

Correct the Interior Clock, reset the Traqmate, Dump a litre of oil into the engine, set the rear damping to 3 clicks from minimum, refuel & go!

As Alex came into the pit when we called him in, the team did their best to finish the pit stop FAST, and then I was out.

The last race, I’d felt encouraged by having a target (of sorts, because I wasn’t sure which car I needed to catch, so I caught everything I could & took it!) so now – knowing I had to get Blue Leaf, I was on a mission. The extra damping at the back had helped the car’s handling. It felt sweet now, and I got into the groove and just concentrated on doing fast laps. I had some good tussles with the Westfield, which I overtook and left behind for a while, more due to nerve than difference in speed.

Their car was only marginally quicker on the uphill straight, if anything – which is commendable for our Prelude, I thought. The best fun I had were a string of 4-5 laps, staying with the B class full race spec DC5 ORC Integra Type R on S-tyres. He’d gain 4-6 car lengths on me at the uphill straight with his close ratio gearbox, lighter weight and more power but I’d catch him up each lap on the Chicane and long sweeper. I felt chuffed knowing our road spec Prelude was quicker than the ORC full race spec car on the corners. Our handling felt spot on.
Then as the end of my stint was about due, I caught Blue leaf...

They knew their position in front of us was only 1 lap, so their driver immediately blocked me. For the first few corners where I tried to overtake, being faster – I thought perhaps he wasn’t doing it intentionally, but by the end of the second lap where he’d deliberately cut in front of me twice on the uphill straight and necessitated braking, I knew he was playing dirty. His driving was good, aside from the blocking – but this wasn’t racing, this was cheating! My head lights were on full beam and I was calling him a fucker in my helmet.
I’d stand on the horn entering corners, but he wasn’t paying any heed to the marshal’s blue flags, so I’d be inches from his rear bumper on the hairpins and once on the Chicane. Was kinda fun to see his car squirm all over the place as he desperately dived into gaps, where other cars were getting out of the way as we approached – but I stuck behind him headlights still blazing. One time as I tried to take him on the outside as he hugged the inside berm on the bottom left hairpin, he pushed me off the track. With each lap I got more determined.
I'd enter the bottom left hairpin inches from his back bumper, almost on the verge of hitting him Eventually, on about the 4th lap of this fight I tricked him, got alongside as got to the top of the hill and dived into the top hairpin. He couldn’t have blocked – all he could do was take a wider corner & make way for TGR which had the racing line. Our team had been watching Blue Leaf’s antics from the pit wall and Alex had commented, “Oh, I bet Miguel’s pissed…!!” the lap before I took him. Once I was past, I made up a lot of space on the chicane and lost the Primera. That was probably about the time I did a 1:09.5 - our car's fastest lap yet. We'll see when the Traqmate footage is uploaded.

I'd had to avoid not only the Primera's rump but a couple of spinning cars in front of me and one virtually standstill green Civic crawling up the hill as I overtook the Westfield earlier. No mishaps with our car.

But now my time was up and the reserve fuel light was coming on. I felt a bit of fuel starvation. Time for Mike!
As we changed drivers and did another super quick pit stop – I warned him of Blue Leaf’s dirty tactics...

There will be video footage…(soon). Should be good to watch, especially the fights with Blue leaf. Perhaps this is what touring car racing can be like.. So aggressive!

I had (amicable but firm) words with the entire Blue Leaf team after the race. I don’t think they’ll try those tactics again as next time they know we’ll bash their car or make a complaint!
They’re an excitable, dedicated younger team that’s done well – who were just too attached to keeping their position – and we all know what it’s like to get over excited. That’s cool.
I congratulated them on their driving, but told them what they did wasn’t racing – but was dangerous and politely asked them not to do it again next time.
Within a few minutes they conceded to realise what they'd done wasn't really fair racing. We didn’t lodge a complaint, or anything.
Our car only got a couple of scraped rims and easily removed dents on the front passenger side wing in the last stint... No cost to repair at all, which is a relief, considering we'd just had the rear quarter panel repaired. Their last driver who’d hit our car came over after the race to make sure our car was OK and apologised again. Good lad.

We started 17th on the grid, with 14 B class cars in front of us and ended 7th overall and 3rd in class, 2 laps behind the Blue Leaf Primera… After colliding with them, our car’s steering was misaligned from the impact & brakes wore to the metal soon afterwards - Had they played fair, we’d probably have caught them… or got much closer to getting 2nd place. But it didn’t matter – we got a Podium finish and had the biggest smiles on our faces.

Team Gaijin Racing’s been causing waves and people have begun to pay attention as we’ve had two podiums in the last 3 races (4th in the 12 hour, we missed 3rd by 23 seconds!!) When we started in this race series a little over a year ago we had an ill-handling Prelude and were about 5 seconds a lap slower, so the car’s really improved a lot.
We've got plans to improve the car further over winter & if we're successful I think next year TGR will be capable of 1.08's, which is very, very fast for a street registered class N/A car, but will pretty much be the end of development of the Prelude - within the rules. We intend for our car to become the quickest in the road registered N class. It’s not all about car performance - it’s also about pit strategy, refueling speed, reliability & of course driver skill.

The team will race again at the end of November, but I'll sit this one out.
Hopefully we can all meet before the race and have a session to coach the rest of the drivers and get each to the level where they're capable of doing consistent 1.10 laps. That would make TGR very hard to beat. Go for it lads!

16th October 6 hour Ebusu Endurance Race - Alex Labrador (2nd of 4 drivers).

I woke up thinking the fire alarm had gone off… Turned out Miguel was on the phone at reception ringing for 3 minutes. Yeah, I’m such a heavy sleeper they’d use me under train tracks if they could…
So I dashed and splashed in the shower, jumped into my race suit, (yes I said race suit!!) gathered my stuff and went downstairs. The others had left already…
I’d driven the Prelude up the day before – so I’d been elected to drive it to the track, stopping on the way to fill the jerry cans and tank with Hi-Oku.

Simon had been the first to drive and I’d been getting a little nervous as my time to prepare was up, but then Miguel told me, “Get ready, 2 laps and we’ve got a pit stop – you’re on”!
We weren’t wasting any time. The car came in; I helped Simon out and jumped inside. I couldn't get the harness on quick enough then bam!! GO! GO! Fuel stop was fast – and I was off…

I’d only driven the first race, back when we used the spare TEIN suspension because the Aragosta suspension still wasn’t completed from the overhaul. Now getting out there, I could immediately feel the car was a lot more stable. It took me about 4-5 laps to get my bearings on the track and I began to throw it around harder... Looking up at the traqmate I spotted 1.11 as my lap time. That’s about 5 seconds a lap quicker than I did in the 1st race!
I began to settle into the groove of overtaking before corners & throwing the car in, knowing it wouldn’t under steer. Boy, was I having fun…. Don’t know if it’ll appear in the video clips, but I was having so much fun I couldn’t help whooping a few times & I KNOW I had the same concentrated grin inside my helmet that Rossi wore on the outside of his helmet last year... I was racing!!

The car would slide on the Chicane and was frisky on the bottom right sweeper as I began to brake – but despite a little slip, it felt totally stable & wasn’t going to bite. All too soon, my time was up as I began to see the fuel reserve warning light come on... The guys were at the pit calling me in…
Like Miguel had said – the car would take whatever I could throw at it, or it into. This thing’s unbreakable!
I had quite a few miss-shifts and trips to the rev-limiter (Good reason to get Redline Heavy Shockproof in that box!) which lost me split seconds, but I found out after I came in I’d done a mid 1.10 amongst other faster laps.
Felt sorry for Sumi who had been sick and not able to make it. Thanks to him, I’d had the most fun time behind the wheel yet…

16th October 6 hour Ebusu Endurance Race - Simon Batters (1st of 4 drivers).

Fresh from attending the Japanese Grand Prix and [for me] a record 9hr trip home from Nagoya to Yokohama the previous Monday I was on the road again along with the tools and trolley jack etc to support TGR over the 6hr race luckily Luckily Steve came along and helped with the driving, we arrived in Koreyama around 11pm in time to catch the other guys and set out for a nightcap, after walking around trying to find a decent bar, we had a near miss outside a Philippino bar called Bacarlaccarlaccaca..... We settled for a few beers instead I finally hit the pillow at one am only to be woken at 3am by Miguel wanting to talk about the race car, well actually was I sober enough to drive it to a car park!

Race day and the alarm signaled that it was 4:30am and time to get up; we arrived at the circuit in time to wait with everyone else while the lady with the keys was late. We were allocated the rear of pit 18 and I unloaded the van and parked up and started to prepare for my stint which would be the first, this would be the third time I have started our race. After setting up the TraqMate equipment prepared my drinking system, flushing out my pipes with Pepsi.

Miguel Qualified the car and did a great job as heavy traffic can block you having a clear run and the track tends not to be so fast early in the morning, Miguel seemed a little disappointed with his time but it was plenty fast enough giving us 17th position on the grid of 39 cars and 3rd position in our class.

At 9:30 it was time to set out for the grid, this was the first time I had driven the car since my last stint in the August race and it felt a much more responsive and sharper the engine felt a little stronger too possibly due to the cooler air. There is something very satisfying in arriving at the grid a little later than most and having to weave your way past 22 other cars and their entourage to take your position, as usual I stayed in the car belted up with about 15 minutes to go as usual, all my TGR team-mates came and took pictures and offered encouragement we also had a visit from the race queens.

I really like the time before the start, the calm before the storm, sitting snugly in the car as the anticipation and tension mounts around you as you plan your route in the mayhem that will be the first lap it is strangely relaxing.

The endurance races start with a rolling start where you must maintain position until you cross the start line, well we were off and it was fairly well mannered but crowded I remember it was about three abreast into the first corner and through the chicane and two about two abreast for the rest of the lap then it settled down.

I then followed my lap plan which was about using as little brakes as possible and keeping the tyres stress free whilst going as quick as possible, for me this should equal 1m 13s to 1m 14s laps and trying to limit my braking and accelerating to when the front wheels are in the straight ahead position. I think this is key to getting an even wear across the tread of the front wheels so that they can last the full six hours and avoid a tyre change which would cost at least 2/3 laps and possibly a place lost in class.

I know the behaviour of a lot of the drivers in the field when I recognise the cars so I can anticipate what they will do, for example, I can control where faster cars can pass without slowing me down and quickly pass slower cars without getting stuck behind them, although where car/drivers are very evenly matched there is an opportunity for some great battles, I had some great battles especially with an MX5 where we traded places many times.

After about 1hr 15mins [my session was set for 1h 30m] the fuel gauge started to hit 'E', as I passed the pits I sounded the horn, this is our signal to pit, but could not see anyone from TGR so I lapped again sounded the horn again, this time I had some fuel starvation and had to pit my entry to the pits was very fast and upset the marshals but the team were ready and I got out feeling pretty good, I later learned that I finished my stint 3rd in class and 15th overall.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Got up early on Sunday morning to a rainy day, so my plans of riding the bike or RX-7 to Zama using Fuji's beautiful Skyline toll roads via Odawara were shelved and I took our workhorse & race support car instead.

In the meantime Russ (Rextreme) had taken a 2 hour ride on the train from Chiba and met me at Zama station on the way.
As we opened their front door we could smell Alex & Morgana was already making a big traditional American breakfast, right down to pancakes, syrup & fresh orange juice, so we sat down and enjoyed a proper start to the day with friends!

At the workshop whilst Alex got on with some work on his GT-R, Russ and I got stuck in. He'd already hand cut the smaller replacement stickers at home, but needed to make a template with tracing paper of the driver's side, to then cut a mirror image for the passenger side.

In the meantime, I got on with assembling the new fuel drums with fittings obtained elsewhere. Yoshi, a friend and competitor had done us proud - not only supplying details of where to buy the drums but also fittings and correctly sized hose.
Using some old hose clips I'd kept as spares - I assembled each.

The hose actually fits tightly into the filler cap, so I'm hoping the breather in the tank will do it's job, but I may try to find some copper fittings and add a small solid nozzle for each hose end, on race day.
I stamped numbers for each nozzle & can - that way we can easily tell which to assemble together - and have the plastic hose curling directly forwards when assembled.

Russ' job was going to take him about 4 hours, so I wanted to avoid working under the car till last. I fitted 3 small magnets on a new bracket side by side to hold the fuel cap shut instead of just one. Feels stronger now of course.

As Russ was finishing, I lifted the front, put it on stands and took off the front pipe off the bottom of the manifold.
The flexible section was sheared in two, with only the mesh holding it together.

I cut it out and ground away excess diameter, till I had a tight fit on each end& welded a new flexible section to one end. Checked the fit and marked where to weld next then finished on the other end. Removed the damaged heat proofing and ended up irritating the skin on my arms. I'd forgotten how nasty that stuff was!

The Ebay cat replacement pipe we'd bought for a Prelude BB6 has incorrectly sized flanges on, so I could fit it. Why do so many sellers there not even bother to sell goods fit for purpose! I want to see if we can find a better replacement in Japan.
The intake now sounds great, but the exhaust's still too quiet!

Checked the subframe bolts, all OK. Lowered the car and tidied up the interior. Found that 2 wheels can slide into the back from the boot's access hole - with fuel cans in the back too. So we only need to have one wheel on the passenger side.

Russ had to leave early to get back to Chiba, whilst we finishing off welding the front pipe.

Whilst waiting for Alex to finish on his car, I did a small bit of waxing. I'll probably take my porter cable to the track and give it a quick buff to remove all the rubber markings on race morning.

Here's the original driver's side:

Russ had slightly changed the design of the passenger side, to try and avoid using small stickers which may be damaged from fuel spillages. He also made up some white sheets for us to stick our race numbers on & even made a little TGR Keyring!

Big thanks to Russ (Rextreme) for coming out and helping us on a Sunday!

Now our race Prelude's all ready to go. Just needs fuel and someone to drive it to Ebisu & back.

Beautiful weather today. Hoping it'll stay like that for a week so we can have a dry race on Saturday!

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Race Preparation 3rd October 2010

On Saturday morning I bought and collected all the bits I thought Sumi, Alex & I might need for fitting a dry battery, induction kit, cold air partition and a magnetic fuel lid release to our Prelude. These included aluminium and steel brackets, since we'd need to re-mount the oil filter block and the magnets of course.
I'd be adapting an unwanted Blitz induction kit to fit our Prelude - originally made to fit a Subaru Legacy...

In the meantime other parts had arrived: New (spare) driveshafts, 2 new Dunlop Z1 Starspec front tyres, Odyssey dry battery, cat replacement pipe, oil, etc.

Last Thursday evening Bodyshop-K had delivered the Prelude back to Alex's with the rear quarter and door repaired. I'd told them only to do the quarter as we have a spare door... Hopefully they won't charge for doing the door too and keep to the 50,000 Yen estimate Toshi Kun had quoted me over the phone... They did a perfect job!

Hoping our man Russ will be able to come over next Sunday (10th Oct) to replace the missing graphics, replace the proteeth stickers and tidy up the vents around the bonnet!

Sunday morning we met at Alex's and loaded up the Hiace with all the stuff we'd need and headed out to the workshop. The Prelude's exhaust leak's getting bigger!

Sumi & Alex switched the left rear tyre with a good used one that had survived mostly intact from the previous 6 hour race & switched the front tyres for new.
Sumi also inspected the brakes and bled the fluid.

In the meantime, I first got on with figuring out how to re-mount the oil filter block, using some brackets bought from my local home centre.
Wanting to keep weight as low as possible, I mounted the battery flat (being a Gel battery it can be mounted in any orientation). I cut the original screw hooks and re-threaded them, so we could re-use the original battery's positioning clamp.
For the air filter, I cut off a section of the original air box's lid and screwed into the Blit'z copper inserts. Air gaps were plugged with self adhesive foam.
As we're no longer using the air vents on the side of the bumper, I routed some spare ducting tube to the bottom of the air cleaner.
I hadn't been able to find any corrugated plastic suitable for making a partition, so I made a template out of cardboard first, then with the use of a jigsaw used that to cut an exact sized carbon fibre partition. The result fitted perfectly. Just need to plug a small gap with foam between the air intake tube and suspension turret & we'll have a much larger volume air box with total seperation from the rest of the hot engine bay.

Sumi undertook the task of fitting a small handle and magnet to the fuel lid. No more shouting to each other to release the fuel cap and risk losing valuable pit time!

Alex & Sumi finished by changing the oil (Castrol RS 10W50 under 3,000 Yen per 4 litres!), whilst I measured the leaking flexible tubing on the exhaust. A new replacement will be arriving shortly...

I checked the driveshafts for wear. They seem OK. We'd ran out of time, anyways - but I don't think they need changing... We will need to send back the OLD ones Simon has at his place, but in the meantime, the new ones can stay in their boxes as spares. Driveshafts are a known weak link on Hondas with tight LSD's..
Maybe we'll add more initial torque when we upgrade the final drive for the next season and change the driveshafts then whilst we're at it.

In the meantime, this morning 3 x 20L drums have arrived. I'll drop these off at Alex's and we'll fit the fittings bought for them. Now we'll have the best available fuel cans for faster pit stops.

Next Sunday, the plan is to complete the following:

(1). Assemble these new fuel cans & fittings and replace the old (Slower) ones.
(2). Fit an additional magnet to the fuel lid (We found the current solution's only just strong enough).
(3). Check front subframe bolts (For some reason they came loose twice before).
(4). Cut out old flexible section of the front pipe on exhaust and weld in replacement.
(5). Fit catalyst replacement pipe.
(6). Replace missing decals where the repair's been carried out (May be worth changing the design near the fuel cap, since spilt fuel made the decals unstick directly below, previously), tidy up the decals on the bonnet and replace missing decals on the rear bumper.
(7). Clean & polish the car, ready for the race on 16th August.

Hoping to have a better turnout from some of the other team members on 10th October, so we can complete the work quickly.