I’ve followed closely what United Autosports have been doing over the years as my ex-Audi Sport team-mate Filipe [Albuquerque] has been driving for them. In terms of sharing a car with Filipe, my first and only time prior to this weekend was at Le Mans in 2014.
My manager, Johnny Mowlem, reached out to Richard [Dean] once the clash between Fuji and a DTM race became apparent which ruled out Paul [Di Resta].
It’s actually not the first time I’ve raced for Richard, having competed for his previous outfit, Team JLR, at the 2003 Formula Ford Festival where I finished third or fourth.
The Fuji Speedway is a track I know pretty well. I raced there for Audi (2015-16) and then JOTA in WEC but also back in 2007 when I competed in the Japanese F3 Championship with TOM’s. I actually won the opening round of the series at Fuji. I also did a couple of races there in Super GT in 2014.
I think Fuji marks my 12th WEC race since Audi’s last race in 2016 when Lucas, Loïc and I finished second having netted fourth there the previous year.
I arrived into Tokyo on Tuesday morning at 5 a.m., headed to the hotel, only to get dragged out by Filipe, Phil and Bruno Senna, to go to in fairness one of the world’s best museums, a digital light museum, which was really good fun.
I did my best to not fall asleep early evening so we went bowling, had then dinner and bed finally, which I was relived to get to.
It was nice to spend a whole day together in Tokyo and to see a bit of the city because normally we just fly straight in somewhere and go straight to the track.
It is my favorite city in the world. I love Japan, love Tokyo. Thursday morning, we drove straight to the track to be here for 1 p.m. as we had PR stuff.
The practice sessions were good. We maybe weren’t massively quick but we were competitive in pure lap time in every session.
The Goodyear-shod cars are working very well here and are very quick. The three of us worked very well together with very similar comments.
Unfortunately, by the time I got in the car, despite both Filipe and Phil doing a fantastic job, we were already on the back foot in the race with the car switching off. It was very strange because the prep of the car is fantastic.
We then made what turned out to be the wrong call going onto inters. It looked like it was the perfect call at the time but the track surface dried out so quickly I had to pit for slicks again.
Then the car switched off for me. But I really enjoyed my double stint and when we were on the right tire, the car handled well and were one of the quicker cars on track.
I really enjoyed the weekend working with the team, Filipe and Phil, it was a lot of fun. We took the checkered flag in fourth but moved up a place to third in the final results when a car was disqualified.
I left Fuji soon after the race and flew out at 1 a.m. Monday morning, back home to the UK for one night, literally to change bags but also to pick my little girls up from school and nursery and get a few hours with them which is precious before leaving for Petit on Tuesday.
We’re no longer realistically in with a chance of winning the DPi championship so I head there with the sole purpose of trying to win the race and finish the season on a high.
Last year we finished second so we know we have a good car for Road Atlanta but as always it is an extremely competitive field and is a race where anything can happen.
It would be great to continue our recent strong form, with three Mazda wins in last four races, and the perfect way to finish off a great second half of the season.