After last year’s race at Fuji was called off due to the weather we were all concerned when we arrived there this year and heard that Super Typhoon VongFong was on its way! As it turned out it didn’t arrive until a couple of days after the race so luck was on our side this time.
I really like being in Japan. Everyone is so nice and the fans are some of the best in the world; arriving at the circuit early in the morning and showing real enthusiasm for what we do.
For me Fuji is the most difficult circuit on the WEC calendar. With its low grip surface and the twisty final sector it’s tricky to get the car well balanced there.
We started the weekend with effectively the same set up we ran in Austin, which had been fantastic there. You know it’s going to be a difficult weekend though, when after those first few laps the car is difficult to drive on the limit.
Tire allocation is always interesting as these decisions are usually made many months in advance of the race meeting.
With the temperatures being a little lower than anticipated we really needed to hold onto our soft tire allocation until race day, which meant that Saturday’s qualifying session was slightly compromised by running the medium tyre.
All things considered though we were very happy to qualify on the front row.
I had the inside line at the start and got away well, drawing alongside No. 99 as we got onto the brakes for Turn One. Unfortunately with me being on mediums and No. 99 on softs – combined with the cooler conditions – my retardation was not as good as I had hoped! With Fernando (in the No. 99 car) trying to go around the outside and me running out of grip the inevitable happened and I slid into the side of No. 99, which then put me into a spin.
The spin was recoverable but unfortunately the following Porsche wasn’t able to avoid me and No. 97 sustained heavy damage to the splitter. I was able to stay out on track for 10 or so more laps but eventually had to pit so the team could work their usual magic, which they duly did and got us out in just over seven minutes.
It was a fantastic turnaround but the time lost took us out of contention for any worthwhile result.
Ultimately it was my error and with the tire option we had I should’ve been more cautious. As they say you’re never too old to learn.
The focus is on the next round in China now. We won at Shanghai last year so I’m hoping we still have the pace to do a competitive job this time and the good thing is it’s Stefan’s turn to start the race!