With a very disappointing and difficult season behind us so far, I had very big hopes and was truly looking forward to return to Fuji Speedway and Japan. Because of my history in Japan, driving and racing for Honda “Mugen” back in the 90’s with Fuji as my base, it was like another homecoming for me.
Besides Fuji being a fantastic race track , the Japanese race fans are, for sure, some of the most enthusiastic and educated sports car fans in the world. Having spent almost three years of my career in Japan driving for Mugen, it has a very special place in my heart with many friends and familiar race fans.
Last year was the first time I had been back to Japan and Fuji since the mid 90’s and I was amazed how many people still remembered me from when I race there. Coming back this year again felt very special with our own Krohn Racing fans who had big banners, pictures, songs and other spectacles.
So with this fantastic welcome back to Japan I really felt pumped and excited for the weekend. The problems we experienced with the car in Austin, both mechanically and electronically, had been corrected and improved to the point were the car was very competitive. We were right in the mix with the other cars and had a good race car underneath us for the race.
A few cars seem to have a little more speed than us for 5-7 laps due to a softer tire, but with a 38 lap stint it seemed like our car was very good and well balanced for the race. The forecast had been that it may rain for race day and they could not have been more right.
The track was completely soaked and had built up some puddles in places that may be a concern when you will try to pass cars of the line. Despite the rain the fans were there early in the morning for the 9:00 am autograph session with big smiles on their lips, excited to see the race get on its way.
The rain kept pouring down and with Michelin making the decision to not bring a full rain tire it became a very difficult situation from a safety aspect. All teams complained and asked that Michelin had to “groove” all the intermediate tires they had supplied to the teams. (An intermediate tire is a tire that is designed for track conditions that are damp to wet without any standing water.)
The intermediate tire did not have enough grooves in the tire to release the water in a effective enough way to make it safe for the cars to race without having hydroplane issues.
Michelin refused to groove the tires and blamed the organizers (FIA/ACO) for not having asked them to homologate a full rain tire. So unfortunately, as always, the organizer and suppliers blame each other and the teams and drivers are the ones that have to suffer!
The decision was made that the race was going to start behind the pace car at the set start time. To give you a real understanding for how dangerous and difficult the conditions were, three cars spun, hit the wall and damaged their cars on the recon laps lining up on the grid.
The race got on its way behind the pace car with me starting the No. 57 Krohn Racing Ferrari 458. We kept going around in a very slow pace due to hydroplaning in third gear. We decided to pit after about 20 minutes to put Tracy in to burn some of his driving time under the yellow flag conditions.
About another 10 minutes later the race control decided to red flag the race but announced that the clock will keep running and that the race will be over after 6 hours no matter what. They tried to restart the race two more times but with the same result.
So about 4 ½ hours in to the race they decided to cancel the race with Toyota being in the lead in the P1 class. So without one single lap under green flag conditions they announced the winners.
This is the first time in my 20 plus years career I’ve ever seen anything so bizarre. For Krohn Racing this meant we never got a chance to compete and see how competitive we would have been this weekend.
With a huge disappointment not been able to race, it was still a great and fantastic opportunity to be back at Fuji to see lots of old friends and get to experience the great Japanese race fans again who makes you love what you do and appreciate the sport we enjoy so much.
Next stop on the WEC schedule is in Shanghai in three weeks. I’m very anxious to get to China and see how competitive we will be there.
Thank you for all your support and for making it possible for us to do what we love the most.
Be safe and take care of each other.