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PLOWMAN: Fuji Debrief

Martin Plowman reflects on a challenging week, culminating with a win…

Photo: DPPI/OAK Racing

Photo: DPPI/OAK Racing

Sadly last week the racing world received devastating news about Sean Edwards’ tragic accident during a private test in Australia. Sean was a friend of mine and someone who I had raced karts against in my early years.

Anytime the racing world loses a son it hits hard, but his passing hit me especially hard as it brought home the reality of how temporary and fragile life is. We were in similar situations both on and off the track – we were the same age, in committed long-term relationships, and enjoying the best years of our respective careers to date.

As a seemingly ‘invincible’ racing driver, it served as a cold reminder that nothing lasts forever. I can only pray for Daphne, Guy and the rest of his family in this difficult time.

Racing is and always will be a very dangerous sport. Like I said back in June after the death of Allan Simonsen during the 24 Hours of Le Mans, nothing will shake my focus to strap into a racing car.

Racing is my life and the day I fear dying is the day I should retire. Safety has come a long way, but there is still a very long way to go to make it safer.

That leads me to the 6 Hours of Fuji and the stewards’ decision to stop the race due to extreme weather conditions. The race stewards, like most referees of sports, have incredibly difficult jobs; they make the tough decisions, where somebody will be left feeling aggrieved by a decision that didn’t go in their favor.

But I must give credit where credit is due. They absolutely got the call right to stop the race. The rain we saw on race day was as heavy and as persistent as I have ever seen, flooding the track in places and making conditions extremely dangerous as cars were aqua-planing on the formation lap cruising in 2nd and 3rd gear!

Their job is to police the race but also it’s their job to protect drivers. You need strong leaders to make those tough calls as you could guarantee that very few drivers would have even thought of ‘quitting’ the race.

Who would have thought that qualifying on pole would have been so important for an endurance race? It was the 35 car’s first pole of the season and one that I am very proud of because of how hard we had to work to get it.

When the car rolled out of the garage on Friday we were a long way off the pace with an almost undriveable car. Over the next two practice sessions Bertrand, Ricardo and I worked overtime with our engineers to get the car back into the performance window.

Come qualifying, it was far from perfect. In fact, it was still a handful to drive, but most importantly the speed was there. Bertrand managed to set two good lap times to put us in a position for the pole, but it rested on my shoulders to produce the two best laps I had done all weekend to help lift our car into pole position.

It was a shock to finally pull off our first pole! My fastest lap of qualifying was 0.7 seconds faster than I had gone during any of the practice sessions. Because of the abandoned race on Sunday, this pole was worth 13.5 points (one point for winning pole, and 12.5 points for the half-points of first place in the race)! Of all the times to get pole position, this was most definitely the perfect time to do it to relight our fight for the championship.

I hate that we had to abandon the race, not only as a driver, but also for the incredible Japanese fans. Watching those fans endure the rain in the stands showed just how much they love racing. I was happy to stay to sign autographs when they opened the pits up after the podium ceremony.

I hope that the fans understand that we tried to put on a show for them, but ultimately safety of the teams, drivers and fans themselves is most important. Somedays mother nature wins the day and you just have to walk away in one piece ready to come back again.

I love everything about Japan from the culture to the food to the people. Japan has always been good to me!

The last time I raced there was 2004 and I won the prestigious FIA-CIK Asia Pacific Karting Championship. Hopefully this last time in Japan can propel me to another FIA championship win! With only two races left in the FIA World Endurance Championship, I guarantee this year will be one hell of a fight!

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