A podium start to the season, it doesn't get much better than this!
Our podium start to the 2015 season here at Okayama Circuit nestled in the misty mountains of Japan didn't come easy, not very easy at all!
The weather kept us guessing in every session, trying to guess what the weather would do was like herding Cats, just impossible!
As the team walked out and onto the grid we were still not sure which tire choice we should go for. The weather forecast basically gave us a bit of everything so we brought intermediate, wet and dry tires to cover all of our bases and therefore make sure the weather wouldn't get the better of our preparations and spoil our hard work! When It was clear that intermediates were the choice to begin the race on as there was no rain just a damp track, we only had one problem left and that was the big grey clouds above us and they were still playing with us and threatening all the rainy badness they may or may not bring if they decided to leak all over Okayama.
Straight from the green light dropping on the rolling start I knew we were on the money and down for a great race as I was able to pass the other drivers in front of my R8 any which way I wanted and I gained a fair few places on the first lap alone.
Soon in to the race around lap 11 I was involved in the battle for third with a massive machine in the form of Andre Couto’s Gainer GTR, a great fight which really showed the differences that make the GT300 field so interesting to watch for all you motorsports fans out there and so great to race in as a driver!
The GTR being a beast in the straights and my R8 being nimble and nippy and possibly one of the best cars on the track under braking into the corners. This all came together for a great scrap which lasted over three laps in which I advanced past him in true wheel to wheel grit fashion and like the terminator started to hunt down the remaining top two.
With the weather fluctuating and the track faintly drying in some spots and wet in others it was wreaking havoc with the field of cars with my class rivals spinning out and losing it all over the place. We planned to do around 30 plus laps as we knew it would be difficult for our tires with all the changing conditions. But surprisingly I kept catching the Prius in first place until we had to pit for our mandatory stop for fuel…
Fujii-san then stepped in and chased the leaders for the remainder of the race, handling the difficult weather and traffic like a champ. Fuji-san kept the R8 on pace in the wet and proved once again his skill in the wet as he had been amongst the fastest in these conditions over saturdays quali and free practice. As Fuji-san crossed the line in Okayama and gave us our first podium and first points of the year we all felt a massive sense of achievement and that our hard work over pre season testing had not been in vein. Our new WRT collaboration package has made Audi Team Hitotsuyama stronger and faster a great thing for the team and for all our fans and for SuperGT.
Audi Team Hitotsuyama now stand third in the title race. Its early days but the future is looking good. Now we are looking onwards and upwards for Fuji Speedway round 2. With a weight handicap in place its going to be another challenge but one our team will relish. We will be looking for another great result thats for sure!
See you at the track for the next round of SuperGT! Richard.