My goal this time was to make the semi-finals as I know on this track, it will be difficult to beat the Japanese. The first two days of free practice, I simply did not have the pace needed and was looking for solutions. The Worlds this year says no tire additives allowed but yet here at the Pre-Worlds, everyone (Japanese) were using tire additive. After asking why, the reason was this race was also the Japanese Nationals, which allows tire sauce. With tire additive, you go 0.5 seconds faster. After control practice, I managed to squeeze into group 5 out of 7 groups of qualifying. I still did not have the pace but the car MRX5 WC was feeling good. After 4 rounds of qualifying, I was sitting at 25th, but I was improving round after round so the final “Rocket” round, I was hoping to move up which I did, finishing 20th overall after 5 rounds of qualifying.
That put me in in pole position of the B group in the quarter-finals. I had a good start and was leading the race but Yamada had the faster car so at one point, I just decided to let him pass and kept close to him. I bumped up into the Semi-finals into a group consisting Robert, Jilles, Tanaka and not to mention some really fast Japanese!
Starting off the grid in position 9, I had a clean start but wished I would have been a bit more aggressive, because I got stuck behind a couple cars for a few laps. Ai did a great job with my pit stops and I drove a pretty good race not making too many mistakes. I did flip once and the marshal was daydreaming and cost me about 12 seconds, but it happens. I chased really hard and made my way up to 4th place. When I heard Tanaka was a lap ahead with 2 minutes to go, I decided not to chase and to maintain my position to finish 4th, hoping the next round would be slower and thus giving me a chance to bump into the A Main.
But, the A group had a much faster track and so I missed the A main this time, but overall, I am happy with my race and results. I ended up placing 15th overall at this year’s Pre-Worlds.
Here are my thoughts on this track (Kei Tune Speedway). Kei Tune has been around for like almost 20 years and the track layout has not changed at all. The Japanese can drive this track blind folded but what they know is how condition changes. Much like Thailand, the home track advantage is tremendous. The traction is weird, you think there is high traction but there isn’t, and because the asphalt is old and the way it is, tire wear is much higher than anywhere I’ve been to. Then the tire itself, its really important to have the right tires for this track. I could not make a 5 minute run with my engine, the Japanese could and that is a 7 second advantage. So there is much to do now to prepare for the Worlds, but I feel good about my time in Japan and I look forward to October.