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MINASSIAN: Fuji Debrief

SMP Racing’s Nic Minassian files his latest Sportscar365 column…

Photo: John Dagys

Photo: John Dagys

Two races in less than a month… and there’s more to come. It’s starting to finally feel like a proper season now.

There’s good news as well with the release of the 2015 calendar. It’s great to see Nurburgring at the end of August. But I will for sure miss Brazil as it’s a fantastic place to race.

Going into the weekend at Fuji, it all started well. We had a great first Free Practice, an even better FP2 and an exciting third!

We improved right from the start and were closer to the competition than before. Fuji Speedway suited our tires better than COTA, especially in the dry.

This place is quite open in terms of aero. You can run low downforce because of the long straight, or you can run in high downforce. They are actually quite similar in terms of lap time.

We had better tire degradation with the high downforce trim so we went that way for the race. Given that you now have to double-stint tires in P2 [because of the tire allotment rules], this was our choice.

Our expectations were high after third practice, so I was surprised we could not do better in qualifying. We actually went slower than in practice, which was very annoying… and I’m polite!

I had hoped we would have seen some rain. The Michelins are just mega in the rain but it stayed dry… and cold, and that didn’t suit us.

I was able to just stay in touch with the leaders at the start, so we decided to start saving fuel, so we could gain a stop in the end.

It all worked well and we led some laps at the end of the stint as I managed to do two or three more laps than the leaders. My second stint carried the same strategy.

As usual, the pit stops were fast and the car ran to perfect, it just wasn’t fast enough.

Maurizio [Mediani] went after me and kept the car in third and did a solid double-stint, even gaining time on the OAK car.

Sergey [Zlobin] was next in the car but on the driver change, the pit speed limiter was accidentally switched off and he was caught speeding. That gave us a 90-second stop-and-hold penalty.

We lost third place as a result. After that, Sergey had a great battle with the OAK car. His lap times were good, especially considering it was his first time here in Japan.

When Sergey touched [Gustavo] Yacaman, we lost our front dive plane so when I got back in the car, there was massive understeer. Still, there was no position for us to gain, so we finished in fourth.

The main thing for us is that we finished the race without problems. We’re a little behind in pure pace, so being perfect as a team will make the difference in the championship.

We’re still leading the championship and we have to keep putting pressure on our competitors.

I hope to have a better next few races. I think we will be stronger. That’s what I’m telling myself!

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